A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Friday dismissed a request by four companies seeking to reverse their guilty plea regarding Dame Patience Jonathan’s controversial $15.5 million account fraud case.
The trial high court judge, Justice Babs Kuewumi held that the application brought by the four firms amounted to forum shopping, adding that the penalty of such offence was outright dismissal.
The four companies including Avalon Property and Investment Development Company Limited; Transoceanic Property and Investment Development Company Limited; Seagate Property and Investment Development Company Limited had pleaded guilty to money laundering charge preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes omission (EFCC).
They had admitted that they were guilty of laundering the controversial $15.5million for Mrs Patience Jonathan while the said plea was recorded against their names.
But hours after the plea of guilt was entered, Patience Jonathan raised thhe alarm that those who came to court to represent the firms and later pleaded guilty to the charge against them were mercenaries recruited by the EFCC for the purpose of indicting or perhaps convict her.
About two days after the proceedings, two lawyers had approached the Court of Appeal to reverse the plea on the account that they were procured by fraud.
The lawyers had also approached the Federal high court before whom the four firms pleaded guilty, asking it for the same relief.
After taking arguments from the opposing parties and adjourned till yesterday for a considered ruling, the trial high court judge, Justice Babs Kuewumi held on Friday that the application brought by the four firms amounted to forum shopping, adding that the penalty for such offence was outright dismissal.
Forum shopping is a practice adopted by litigants to get their cases heard in a particular court that is likely to give a favorable judgment.
It would be recalled that the purported directors of the four companies, Taiwo Ebenezer for Avalon Property and Investment Development Company Limited; Kola Fredrick for Transoceanic Property and Investment Development Company Limited; Friday Davis and Agbo Baro for Seagate Property and Investment Development Company Limited, had all pleaded guilty on behalf of the companies to money laundering charges leveled against them.
Upon the guilty pleas of the purported directors of the companies, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), through its lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, urged the court to adjourn for review of facts of the case against them.
Other accused persons Waripamo-owei Dudafa, a former domestic aide of President Goodluck Jonathan and Skye Bank’s Head E-Banking, Adedamola Bolodeoku, alongside the four companies, in a second amended charge number FHC/337C/16, were alleged to have between November 13, 2013 and March 31, 2015, conspired with one Sombre Omeibi, who is now at large, to retain the sum of $15,591,700 which they reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act, and thereby committed Offences bordering on money laundering, stealing,and conspiracy.
EFCC alleged that the said money was wired through account numbers: 2110002207; 2110002245; 2110002238; 0122493290; 2110002252; domiciled in Skye Bank Plc.
The anti-graft agency also alleged that the accused persons forged Skye bank’s mandate card which was purportedly signed by the purported directors of the companies, namely; Friday Davis, kola Fredrick, Agbo Baro, Taiwo Ebenezer and China John.
The offences according to the EFCC were contrary to sections 18(a) and 15(d), and punishable under section 15(3) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.
Mrs. Jonathan had since claimed the monies belonged to her and has sought the intervention of the courts to reclaim the funds.