Cletus Ibeto Arraignment Over Alleged N4.8bn Fraud Suffers Setback
The arraignment of a businessman, Chief Cletus Ibeto, charged with N4.8 billion fraud at an Ikeja High Court on Thursday suffered another setback as he was absent in court for the third time.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had filed a 10-count charge against Ibeto, alongside his company, Ibeto Energy Development Company, before Justice Ismail Ijelu.
The offences bordered on obtaining by pretences, fraudulent conversion of property, criminal breach of trust, forgery and deception.
The EFCC Counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), told the court that the case was adjourned on Sept. 28 to Thursday for arraignment following the absence of the defendant.
Jacobs said the court adjourned the matter based on the defendant’s application for them to appear for arraignment.
“The defence counsel appeared for them that day and pleaded with your lordship that the first defendant had a medical issue.
“He had promised to produce him on the next day of adjourned and that is why we are here,” he said.
The EFCC counsel further agreed that plea bargaining was encouraged even in criminal matters.
He, however, said the commission gave the parties the opportunity to go and resolve their differences and that they did not seize the opportunity, even before the charges were filed.
“My lord, there should be arraignment of the defendant first, before the court will assume jurisdiction to do anything,” Jacob said.
In his response, the defence counsel, Dr Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), said the law was not a respecter of any person and he was of the firm view that the matter, if given some time, could be resolved.
Ikpeazu, however, said he had no medical report with him in court to explain the absence of the defendant.
He further submitted that the issue at stake was one that could be resolved between the complainant and the defendants. The learned silk, after that, prayed to the court if it could be accommodated in that regard. The court expressed concerns that the defence counsel seemed to try to deceive the court.
The judge said the court existed for strict business and did not want to believe that the defence counsel deceived the court by obtaining adjournment at the last date, pleading passionately that he would bring his client’s medical report.
He said: “Appearing to now say that the defendant is still healing, that should not be. Counsel must be seen as taking his words seriously, particularly senior counsel.
“One wonders the type of example you are setting for junior counsels and this court is not pleased with that.
“This is the third time that this case will be called and nothing has been done about it.”
Ijelu further said if there would be a plea bargain, the defendant had to come and take his plea before the court could assume jurisdiction.
“The defendant cannot be shielded from coming to court,” he said.
The judge adjourned the case until Nov. 3 for possible arraignment.
The anti-graft commission said the alleged offences contravened the provision of Section 1 of the Advance Fee Fraud Act 2006 and Section 365(3d) and (e), 366 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015. #Cletus Ibeto Arraignment Over Alleged N4.8bn Fraud Suffers Setback Naira Devaluation Deepens Economic Crisis in Nigeria