Home Nigeria EFCC Informs Court that Ibeto has Accepted Plea Bargain in N4.8bn Fraud...

EFCC Informs Court that Ibeto has Accepted Plea Bargain in N4.8bn Fraud Case, Refunded N1.5bn

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By Uche Amunike

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has informed Justice Oyindamola Ogala of the Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja, that Cletus Ibeto, Chairman of Ibeto Energy Development Company, has paid back 1.5 billion in two installments, in respect of the alleged  N4.8 billion fraud, for which he was charged to court.

Speaking, during the court sitting, the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), made this known to the judge, Justice Ogala, on Monday, stating that Cletus Ibeto already paid the money as part of the ongoing plea bargain discussions between the EFCC and the defendants.

He further stated that the defendants have accepted to pay the balance of the money in the next three months. This was not denied or confirmed by the defense counsel.

Recall that the defendants, Ibeto and his companies, Ibeto Energy Development Company and Odoh Holdings Ltd are facing a 10-count charge, bordering on allegations of forgery, conspiracy, fraud, as well as fraudulent use of documents brought against them by the anti-graft agency.

However, the case could not go on Monday as a result of the arguments between the prosecution and the defense on which the application is due to the arguments between the prosecution and the defense, on which application is due for hearing.

Oshodi contended that the court should hear the defendant’s application, challenging the court’s territorial jurisdiction. Counsel Rotimi, in response, argued that the court could not accept the application because the issues involved in it are also the same issues the defendants already placed in the Court of Appeal for determination.

The court’s attention was drawn 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 Cletus Ibeto, stating 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.

An interested party in the matter, Babajide Martins, who is the Lagos State Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), told the court that he had filed an Amicus Curiae brief to assist the judge in deciding on the action to take on the case.

Justice Ogala adjourned the case after listening to all parties, to enable her study the case file and decide how to proceed with the trial. Further hearing in the proceedings will be on April 15.

Recall that EFCC charged Ibeto and his companies to court in 2023. However, their planned arraignment was stalled on four occasions, September 28, October 5, November 3 and December 6, because Cletus Ibeto, whose lawyers always represented, failed to appear in court.

This made 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 bring him to the court.

He challenged the decision of the appellate court and wrote a petition to the Chief judge, seeking to review the case file and another to the Attorney General of Lagos, seeking that his office outrightly takes over the case. Resultantly, the Chief Judge re-assigned the case to Justice Ogala.

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