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$15.5m fraud: Court refuses to reverse guilty plea by firms linked to Patience Jonathan

A Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos on Tuesday dismissed an application by four companies belonging to former First Lady, Mrs Patience Jonathan, seeking to reverse a guilty plea entered by their directors.

In his verdict on the matter on Tuesday, Justice Babs Kuewumi, said a lower court can only reverse itself in exceptional cases where there is “a serious procedural irregularity” or where the court lacks jurisdiction.

The judge said, “The main issue to be addressed in this application is whether this court can revisit its earlier decision whereby the applicants were convicted.

“Once a court gives an order or judgment, it has no legal competence to reverse itself or set aside its previous order. Considering the circumstances of this case, I have not been shown any valid reason to make me revisit my decision. This court is already functus officio.

“I’m in agreement with the prosecution that this application is incompetent. It is hereby refused and accordingly dismissed.”

Two years ago, the directors who represented the four companies – Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited, Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Limited, Transocean Property and Investment Company Limited and Globus Integrated Service Limited – belonging to Mrs Jonathan, had pleaded guilty to money laundering charges.

Apart from prosecuting the four firms, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is also prosecuting Waripamo Dudafa, who served as Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to former President Goodluck Jonathan; former presidential aide, Amajuoyi Briggs; and a former Skye Bank official, Damola Bolodeoku.

But the trio pleaded not guilty to the 17-count charge.

Mrs Jonathan later accused the EFCC of using impostors to plead guilty on behalf of the companies.

Last year, the four companies, represented by Mike Ozekhome (SAN), filed an application asking the court to reverse the guilty plea and nullify the previous proceedings because those who represented the company were not authorised to do so.

He said his clients were not given a fair trial before their conviction because they had no legal representation of their choice and that he was briefed to represent the companies after its directors pleaded guilty despite not being authorised by the board to do so.

Moving his motion seeking to set aside the companies’ conviction, Ozekhome said they were convicted “in gross violation” of the 1999 Constitution, which he said occasioned a miscarriage of justice.

He urged the court to declare the previous proceedings null and void and start the trial afresh.

The application, he said, was on the ground that the court failed to pass a sentence on the convicted companies, as the judge reserved sentence until the end of the other defendants’ trial.

Ozekhome also said the companies were denied the right to cross-examine the purported directors who purportedly pleaded guilty.

“They’re just busybodies and interlopers who were pressured to come and plead guilty. They had no mandate to do so,” he said.

But the lawyer to the EFCC, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, urged the court to dismiss the application because it’s an abuse of court process.

Oyedepo said the application amounted to asking the judge to revisit his ruling and to assume the position of an appellate court.

He denied that the directors who pleaded guilty were not authorised to do so, saying there was evidence that they were indeed the companies’ directors from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and from the companies’ bank accounts.

The case has been adjourned till October 17.

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