$1.6 m fraud: Ab­sence of key wit­nesses stalls Ajudua’s trial

Daily Trust - - NEWS - From Nu­rudeen Oye­wole, La­gos

The ab­sence of key wit­nesses in the on-go­ing trial of so­cialite and Lagos­based lawyer, Fred Ajudua, stalled fur­ther pro­ceed­ings at a La­gos State High Court, sit­ting in Ikeja yes­ter­day.

The Eco­nomic and Fi­nan­cial Crimes Com­mis­sion (EFCC) is pros­e­cut­ing Ajudua over al­le­ga­tion of de­fraud­ing two Dutch busi­ness­men to the tune of $1.69 mil­lion.

Ajudua and one Charles Oko­rie were ar­raigned be­fore Jus­tice Joseph Oye­wole in July 24, 2003, for al­legedly de­fraud­ing Messrs Remy Cina and Pierre Vi­j­gen be­tween July 30, 1999 and Feb.9, 2000. The mat­ter was how­ever stalled for al­most 10 years as the de­fen­dants failed to show up in court. The duo were re-ar­raigned last month be­fore Jus­tice Kudi­rat Jose on the same al­le­ga­tions.

But at the re­sump­tion of trial yes­ter­day, EFCC lawyer, Chief Ogunde Wemimo, told the court that some of the prose­cu­tion wit­nesses who re­side abroad were not in the coun­try be­cause the com­mis­sion was un­sure of how that mat­ter would pro­ceed.

He noted that the de­fence coun­sel led by Olalekan Ojo had last Fri­day, April 25, 2014, served the com­mis­sion with a process for stay of pro­ceed­ing but later called to say that it was served in er­ror.

He said it was that in­ci­dent that pre­vented the com­mis­sion from ex­tend­ing in­vi­ta­tion to the wit­nesses to travel down to Nigeria.

The coun­sel said EFCC was also try­ing to avoid a re­peat of the sit­u­a­tion where wit­nesses trav­elled to Nigeria, but hear­ings were not held.

He sub­se­quently asked for a 21 day pe­riod to en­able the EFCC get the wit­nesses to at­tend the trial.

Coun­sel to the de­fen­dants, Olalekan Ojo, how­ever op­posed the re­quest for 21 days ad­journ­ment, say­ing the pe­riod was too long. He ar­gued that it would be wrong for the court to grant such a long ad­journ­ment when his client has been re­fused bail. He also con­tended that the fact that his cham­ber mis­tak­enly served the EFCC with a wrong process was not enough ex­cuse for the com­mis­sion not to bring its wit­nesses to court.

Jus­tice Jose over­ruled Ojo’s ar­gu­ment and ad­journed the mat­ter till May 23 for trial.

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