N4.8bn fraud: Ibeto refunded N1.5bn, settled for plea bargain– EFCC

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has told Justice Oyindamola Ogala of the Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja that the Chairman of Ibeto Energy Development Company, Cletus Ibeto, has paid back N1.5 billion in two tranches in respect of the N4.8 billion fraud allegations for which he was charged before the court.


Counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, disclosed this to Justice Ogala on Monday.


He also told the judge that the defendant paid the money as part of the ongoing plea bargain discussions between the anti-graft agency and the defendants.


Rotimi explained that the defendants have agreed to pay the balance within the next three months.


Counsel to the defendants, Adebayo Oshodi, did not deny or confirm the claims.


The defendants, Ibeto and his companies, Ibeto Energy Development Company and Odoh Holdings Ltd, face a 10-count charge bordering on allegations of conspiracy, fraud, forgery and fraudulent use of documents brought against them by the EFCC.


The case could, however, not go on Monday owing to the arguments between the prosecution and the defence on which application is ripe for hearing.


Oshodi contended that the court should hear the defendants’ application challenging the court’s territorial jurisdiction.


But EFCC counsel Rotomi argued that the court could not entertain the application because the issues canvassed in it are also the same issues the defendants have placed before the Court of Appeal for determination.


The EFCC counsel also drew the court’s attention to an order issued by the former trial judge, Justice Ismail Ijelu, who presided over the case before it was transferred to Justice Ogala, ordering the arrest of Ibeto.


He said that the order was predicated on the defendant’s alleged refusal to appear in court. The judge cannot hear any application until the order is vacated or the defendant shows up in court to take his plea.


The Lagos State Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, Babajide Martins, who appeared in the matter as an interested party, also told the court that he had filed an Amicus Curiae brief to assist the judge in deciding on what action to take on the case.


After listening to all the parties, Justice Ogala adjourned the case to enable her to study the case file and decide how to proceed with the trial.


The judge then adjourned further hearing in the proceedings till April 15.


Recall that EFCC had charged Ibeto and his companies before the court last year.


The planned arraignment of the defendants was, however, stalled on four occasions, September 28, October 5, November 3 and December 6, owing to the failure of Ibeto to appear in court, although his lawyers represented him.


This prompted the former trial judge, Justice Ismail Ijelu, to accede to the prosecution’s request on November 3, 2023, to issue a bench warrant for the arrest of the businessman for allegedly refusing to appear to take his plea despite many undertakings by his lawyers to produce him in court.


The defendant subsequently challenged the decision at the Court of Appeal.


He also wrote a petition to the Chief Judge seeking a review of the case file and another to the Attorney General of Lagos seeking his office’s outright takeover of the case.


Following the petition, the Chief Judge re-assigned the case to Justice Ogala.

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