N4.8bn fraud: Judge returns Ibeto’s case file to CJ

The prosecution of Chairman of Ibeto Energy Development Company, Chief Cletus Ibeto, over alleged N4.8 billion fraud before an A Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja, was stalled, Monday, due to the return of the case file by the trial judge, Justice Ismail Ijelu to the state’s Chief Judge, Justice Kazeem Alogba.

Justice Ijelu told counsel in the matter  that the case could not proceed until the Chief Judge decides on the various petitions by the defence challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the case and accusing him of bias.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, is trying the defendant alongside his companies, Ibeto Energy Development Company and Odoh Holdings Limited, on a 10-count charge of alleged conspiracy, fraud, forgery and fraudulent use of documents.

However, the scheduled arraignment of the defendant had been stalled on four occasions, September 28, October 5, November 3 and December 6, due to his failure to appear in court, although he was represented by his lawyers.

This prompted Justice Ijelu to accede to the prosecution’s request on November 3, 2023, to order 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.

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However, at the last proceeding on the matter on December 6, 2023, the Lagos State Attorney-General/Commissioner for Justice Mr. Lawal Pedro, SAN, informed the court that he was considering taking over the matter based on a petition written by the defendant.

The State’s Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP, Dr. Jide Martins, who represented the Attorney-General in court, also informed the court of a petition written by the law firm of Robert Clarke, SAN, seeking a review of the case file and the outright take over of the case by the office of the Attorney-General.

However, the anti-graft agency, through its lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs, had challenged the move, describing it as an attempt to scuttle the trial.

But at the resumed hearing of the matter, Monday, Justice Ijelu, said: “This case can not go on today because the case file has been returned to the Chief Judge due to the many petitions flying around. I advise parties to liaise with the administrative judge to know the next step to take in the case.”

The judge then adjourned the case indefinitely, to await decision on the various petitions written by the defendant.

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