Justice Kuewemi of the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos has declared guilty four companies – Pluto Property and Investment Company LTD, Seagate Property Development & Investment Co. LTD, Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Limited, and Avalon Global Property Development Company LTD – which were used by Waripamo-Owei Emmanuel Dudafa, former Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to former President Goodluck Jonathan, and others to steal the sum of 15.6 million USD linked to former First Lady Patience Jonathan.
After long hours of arguments and counter arguments between the prosecuting counsel and defense counsel, the judge convicted the companies but suspended their sentences to the end of the trial. The representatives of the companies had earlier pleaded guilty to the 15-count charges leveled against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
In reviewing the facts of the case against the companies, the prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, presented the original account opening documentation, the mandate card and the statement of the companies’ bank accounts retrieved by the anti-graft agency from Skye Bank Plc. and Wema Bank Plc. Mr. Oyedepo also presented the courts with documents that revealed that a total sum of 15,692,700 USD, the proceeds of the crimes, was retained by the companies.
Meanwhile, Mr. Ige Asemudara, defense counsel of Mr. Amajuoyi Azubuike Briggs, the lawyer who registered the companies and doubles as the companies’ secretary, argued that the documents presented by Mr. Oyedepo should not be admitted by the court, claiming that doing so could possibly affect the first, second and third defendants in the process of the ongoing trial.
“The second defendant [Briggs] is the secretary of the companies and it will affect the interest of the second defendant if the documents are admitted as evidence by the court,” Mr. Asemudara sai, adding, “what goes for one will affect the others in a joint trial.”
He urged the court to allow the defendants’ counsel to go through the documents and give their input before the court takes in the documents. Alternatively, Mr. Asemudara said the prosecuting counsel should say on record that he would not use the evidence against his client who had pleaded not guilty to the case.
The counsel for the first and third defendants leaned on the same argument, maintaining that the documents should not be admitted by the court unless the prosecuting counsel does not use the documents tendered against his clients in the court process.
In response to the argument of the defense counsel, Mr. Oyedepo amended count one of the charge to exclude the first, second and third defendants.
A similar argument came up when the prosecuting counsel tendered the registration documents of the four companies obtained from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and the statements issued by the purported directors of the four companies.
Mr. Asemudara once again objected that the document could not be tendered because it would affect his client who registered the companies and acted as their secretaries.
“The four companies are incorporated by the second defendant who is a lawyer, and form CAC 2.1 will show him as the secretary of the companies.” He therefore submitted that the document would affect his client if the court takes it in as an evidence to convict the companies.
Mr. Gboyega Oyewole, counsel to Mr. Dudafa, also pleaded the court to reject those documents and requested the court to order the four companies to make fresh appeals since the charges against them as contained in the first count had been amended.
Justice Kuewumi ruled that the document be admitted only against the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh defendants.
He adjourned the trial to the 14th of December, 2016.