Update: Why Lagos court dismissed Fred Ajudua’s application to quash N262mn fraud charges

[Photo: www.cknnigeria.com]

Ajudu is accused of duping two people of N262 million.

A Lagos High Court Tuesday dismissed an application by alleged 419 kingpin, Fred Ajudua, to quash the fraud charges against him.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, is accusing Mr. Ajudua of, among other charges, duping Remy Cina and Pierre Vijgen – two Dutch businessmen – of about US$1.69 million (N262 million).

Mr. Ajudua, 52, urged the court to quash the fraud charges on the grounds that Mr. Cina had declared his intention to withdraw the allegations against him, as well as the Attorney General of the Federation’s, AGF, alleged directive that the case be discontinued since the “star witness” had decided not to testify.

On Tuesday, Olubunmi Oyewole, the trial judge, said that trial had already commenced with the prosecution’s six witnesses completing their testimonies before a series of interlocutory applications and absence of Mr. Ajudua stalled the trial.

“The court has jurisdiction to quash an application when the prosecution has nothing to offer, otherwise it would amount to abuse of process,” said Mr. Oyewole. “All that is required is that the evidence of the prosecution supports and links the accused with the charge. As at today, the testimonies of six witnesses are before the court alongside various exhibits.”

Mr. Oyewole noted that while Mr. Ajudua made a reference to the AGF directing that the case be discontinued, “nothing was presented to support it.”

“Criminal prosecution is regulated by law and failure to comply with the stated procedure will endanger trial.”

The judge also said that it is not the responsibility of the AGF to terminate the case since it did not institute it.

“If the prosecution has reached a dead end, it is for them to disclose it. I agree with Ogunde (EFCC’s counsel) that this application coming at this stage is strange,” he said.

On Mr. Cina’s intention to be absent from the trial, the judge stated that failure to attend and testify during trial could attract severe penalties. Mr. Oyewole further stated that the defence may be interfering with the trial “when a listed witness who is also a victim suddenly makes an affidavit being brandished by the defence.”

Bail application

Tuesday’s proceedings witnessed the appearance of the second defendant, Charles Orie, for the first time since the resumption of trial.

In the capacity filled courtroom, Mr. Ajudua frequently exchanged jokes with his friends and townspeople seated at the gallery. Allens Agbaka, Mr. Ajudua’s counsel, urged the court to restore his client’s earlier bail or issue him a fresh one.

“The time the bail was revoked, the information before the court then is different from the information before it now,” said Mr. Agbaka. “The bench warrant was exhibited in error.”

The judge disagreed with Mr. Agbaka, insisting that the bench warrant was issued after the Indian hospital, where Mr. Ajudua claimed to be receiving treatment, reported that “he is no longer with them and they can’t account for him.”

Mr. Ajudua, a lawyer, was arraigned in 2003, but was granted bail two years later to seek medical attention over his kidney-related ailment in India. He never appeared in court again, leading to the trial suffering 40 adjournments in the seven year period.

On March 20, 2008, EFCC operatives, acting on a tip-off, tried to arrest him at his hometown in Ibusa, Delta State, but were confronted by armed thugs, according to the commission. Mr. Ajudua allegedly escaped.

Mr. Agbaka told the court, on Tuesday, that the EFCC did not obtain a statement from the owners of the beer parlour where Mr. Ajudua was allegedly sighted.

“The real issue is ill health, a special and exceptional circumstance that must weigh in the mind of this court in considering the first defendant’s application,” Mr. Agbaka said.

Reading a letter from the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, dated May 14, 2013, Mr. Agbaka said that Mr. Ajudua needed “more frequent visits (abroad) for close supervision of his close supervision of his renal problems.”

“Mr. Ajudua cannot be given painkillers for colic because he has only one kidney,” Mr. Agbaka read.

The lawyer also said that if his client continues in Kirikiri Prisons, the ability of his family to provide him with his specialized diet would be “practically impossible.”

“The applicant will be ready to make a personal undertaking that he will not do anything to frustrate the expeditious hearing of this case within the ambit of the law,” Mr. Agbaka said.

The judge noted that the letter from LUTH stated that Mr. Ajudua attended a scan session at the hospital last December.

“If he showed up in LUTH for scan, I want you to explain why he’d report to the doctor and fail to come to court,” he demanded.

But Mr. Agbaka said that his client’s health was “seriously bad.”

“It was just after his last surgery that he began to look like a man. He was almost a vegetable,” said Mr. Agbaka.

Wemimo Ogunde, counsel to the EFCC, insisted that the commission’s operatives saw Mr. Ajudua, but he evaded arrest.

“During the time they said he was not in Nigeria, he was physically present in Nigeria,” Mr. Ogunde, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said. “If they said he has never visited Nigeria since he left for treatment in February 2006, the best way to controvert our statement is to present his travel document showing his movement.”

Mr. Ogunde further said that the only hospital that can give a “concrete and current” report of Mr. Ajudua’s health is the Indian hospital, and not LUTH.”

The judge adjourned till June 27 for ruling on the bail application.

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