28 Sep 2016

Court to Rule on Patience Jonathan’s $15m Accounts Request to Reverse Guilty Plea

On Tuesday, Mr Waripamo Dudafa, a former aide of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan asked the court to reverse the guilty plea made by four companies involved in the the suit before the Federal High Court in Lagos where he is facing trial.

Dudafa had been charged alongside the four companies for their roles in alleged money laundering to the tune of $15 million which former first lady, Dame Patience Jonathan claims belongs to her.

Upon arraignment of the suspects by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on September 15, the four companies pleaded guilty to laundering $15,591,700 (about N5billion).

The Nation reports that the companies are: Pluto Property and Investment Company Ltd (represented by Friday Davis), Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Ltd (represented by Agbor Baro), Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Ltd (represented by Dioghowori Frederick) and Avalon Global Property Development Ltd (represented by Taiwo Ebenezer).

Two other persons – a lawyer, Amajuoyi Briggs and a banker, Adedamola Bolodeoku – were charged alongside Dudafa and the companies. They were all arraigned before Justice Babs Kuewumi of the Federal High Court.

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While the four companies pleaded guilty to the money laundering charge, the trio of Dudafa, Briggs and Bolodeoku pleaded not guilty to a 17-count charge brought against them by the EFCC.

Concerned about the chances of his case being affected by the guilty plea of the companies, Dudafa told the court on Tuesday to reverse the plea and record a plea of not guilty for the companies even though he was not the one who made the plea.

Dudafa’s lawyer argued that the representatives of the companies did not show the court any authorisation from the companies which permitted them to plead guilty to the charge and that they had earlier made statements to the EFCC denying knowledge of the transactions.

The EFCC through its lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo urged the court to dismiss Dudafa’s prayer and rely on the evidence before the court which showed that the companies’ representatives were bona fide employees of the companies and indeed operated the accounts with Skye Bank as indicated in documents obtained from the bank.

Justice Kuewunmi took note of the arguments and announced that he would give his ruling on October 7.
Under Nigerian law, persons charged before the court can plead guilty to the crime, plead not guilty or plead insanity. Where the accused pleads guilty, the court may convict such person after ascertaining that the accused truly intended to plead guilty and calling on the prosecution to show what evidence it has against the accused.

The accused person can however reverse his guilty plea at any point which would mean that the court would change the plea to not guilty and the prosecution would have to prove its case against the accused beyond reasonable doubt.

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