Attempt to frustrate $10,000 fraud trial of businessman in Kwara suffers setback

Attempt to frustrate $10,000 fraud trial of businessman in Kwara suffers setback

by Ololade Adebeshin
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Attempt to frustrate $10,000 fraud trial of businessman in Kwara suffers setback

 

By People’s Voice Nigeria | News

 

An attempt by an Ilorin-based businessman, Chukudubem Ezenwa, and one Adeleke Damilola, to frustrate a $10,000 alleged fraud trial has suffered a setback at a Federal High Court in Ilorin.Justice Evelyn Anyadike of the Federal High Court in Ilorin on Wednesday struck out the objection challenging the admissibility of the extra-judicial statements tendered by the Ilorin Zonal Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in the $10,000 fraud trial involving the two suspects.

 

Chukwudubem and Adeleke were re-arraigned on a five-count charge bordering on cybercrime, retention of proceeds of crime and fraud to the tune of USD 10,000.

 

The two defendants were first arraigned on September 23, 2021, before Justice Muhammed Sani of the same court.

 

However the trial could not be concluded before the redeployment of the former trial judge to another division, hence, the case was reassigned to another judge and had to start de novo.

 

Upon their arraignment on Monday, the two defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge preferred against them by the anti-graft agency, thereby setting the stage for a full trial.

 

But, Chukwudubem and Adeleke’s Counsels, Osinachi Odom and Tochi Ekwedike, at the point of tendering the extra-judicial statements of their clients objected to its admissibility claiming that they were coerced and made to write the statements under duress, intimidation and harassment.

 

Although Counsel to the EFCC, Innocent Mbachie urged the court to discountenance the objection on the grounds that it was an attempt to frustrate and delay trial, the court ordered a trial-within-trial to determine the voluntariness or otherwise the statements of the defendants. Consequently, the case was adjourned till Tuesday, May 7, 2024.

 

At the resumed hearing of the trial-within-trial on Tuesday, the EFCC presented a video recording showing the first defendant volunteering his statement in the presence of his lawyer without intimidation or harassment. Thereafter, it sought to tender the video recording and the statements of the defendants, which carried the signature of their lawyers in evidence, which the court obliged.

 

In their arguments, the defence claimed that the video recording was doctored, as it did not capture the entire statement taken.

 

The judge, after listening to arguments and counterarguments from both sides, adjourned till Wednesday for ruling on the admissibility of the documents.

 

Justice Anyadike, in her ruling, said: “I note that the video recording was played in the open court, I observed that counsel to the first defendant was present, and he also counter-signed the statement. This Honourable Court did not see anything to suggest that the said statements were dictated to the first defendant to write.”

 

On the claim that the second witness in the trial-within-trial (TW2), Olamide Sadiq, sneaked into the cell at midnight to beat the first defendant, the court said: “The defence counsel had every opportunity to confront the said witness when he was in the witness box, but decided to be quiet about the allegations, thereby made the submission immaterial and mere imagination.”

 

The judge further said, “the insinuation and imagination of the defence counsel who did not enter the witness box of this court to give evidence in this case can not form the opinion of the court.”

 

”The court believed that the statements of the first and second defendants were obtained in line with Section 28 of the Evidence Act, 2011.

 

She noted that the evidence of the prosecution witnesses that the defendants made the statements at the EFCC’s general office, which was in a good atmosphere with a full air-conditioner, was not challenged nor contradicted by the defence.

 

The court, in the final analysis, dismissed the claims by the defence and admitted the documents as exhibits.

 

Thereafter, the case was adjourned till July 15, 2024, for continuation of trial.

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