$15.5m Money Laundering Charge: Two Lawyers Fight Over Who Represents Patience Jonathan’s Four Companies

Two lawyers on Wednesday at the a Federal High Court, Lagos, engaged in an argument over who to represent four firms that pleaded guilty to laundering $15.5m allegedly belonging to Patience Jonathan.
The companies through their representatives pleaded guilty on September 15 and were convicted for laundering the money when they were arraigned in a criminal charge before Justice Babs Kuewumi.
They admitted laundering the money allegedly belonging to wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Dame Patience.
But the law firm of Mike Ozekhome filed an application on May 8 on the companies’ behalf seeking to set aside the guilty plea.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has filed a counter affidavit opposing the application.
The former First Lady is also praying the court to unfreeze the accounts in a separate suit.
The companies are Pluto Property and Investment Company Ltd (represented by Friday Davis), Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Ltd (represented by Agbor Baro), Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Ltd (represented by Dioghowori Frederick) and Avalon Global Property Development Ltd (represented by Taiwo Ebenezer).
The EFCC arraigned them with a former Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to President Jonathan, Waripamo Dudafa, a lawyer, Amajuoyi Briggs and a banker, Adedamola Bolodeoku.
Dudafa, Briggs and Bolodeoku pleaded not guilty to the 17-count charge.
Beside the application filed by Ozekhome Chambers, another motion to set aside the guilty plea was filed by Briggs, who was the companies’ secretary, through his lawyer Ige Asemudara.
At resumed proceedings, Wednesday, Chima Onuigbo, who stood in for Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), said he was served with the prosecution’s counter affidavit on Tuesday. He sought an adjournment to enable the companies respond.
Surprisingly, another lawyer, Luke Aghanenu, also appeared for the companies.
He claimed he was engaged by the companies’ representatives as their authentic counsel.
According to him, he is the one who ought to speak on the companies’ behalf, and not Onuigbo.
But, Onuigbo said Ozekhome Chambers was engaged by Briggs to represent the companies.
He said Ozekhome had been appearing for the companies, saying he was surprised by the new counsel’s appearance.
He described Aghanenu as an “interloper”, saying he should have filed a proper application.
Resolving the issue after a long argument, Justice Kuewumi asked Aghanenu to file a formal notice of appearance as the companies’ representatives.
Asemudara said he was also served with EFCC’s counter affidavit on Tuesday.
Dudafa’s lawyer Gbenga Oyewole (SAN) said he was not served.
“As long as we’re involved in this proceedings we are entitled to be served,” he said.
The EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, said since the application was challenging the validity of companies’ plea, it could be heard and judgment delivered at the end of the trial.
This, he said, would be in line with Section 396 (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of 2015.
“I apply that the trial should continue,” he said.
But, Asemudara said his client was challenging the guilty plea and not the charge, so it should be taken first and ruling delivered before further proceedings.
He said Oyedepo’s submission was misconceived, adding the case of the second defendant was “intricately connected” with the fourth to seventh defendants’ (the companies).
He accused the prosecution of delaying the case, saying previous adjournments were at its instance.
Urging the court to hear the application and deliver judgment, he added: “We don’t want our client to fear they were not given fair hearing.”
Ruling, Justice Babs Kuewumi held that the application would be heard and determined before the prosecution witness continues with his evidence.
“Section 396 (2) which says the delivery of the ruling shall be considered at the point of judgment does not apply to this type of application,” he said.
The Judgenoted that EFCC’s late filing of its counter-affidavit necessitated the adjournment.
Justice Kuewumi adjourned until December 12 for hearing of pending applications.

Author: News Editor

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