A former Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Waripamo Dudafa, yesterday urged the Federal High Court in Lagos to nullify the guilty plea by four companies linked to Jonathan's wife, Patience.
The companies on September 15 pleaded guilty to laundering $15,591,700 (about N5billion) when they were arraigned.
They 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).
The companies, along with a lawyer Amajuoyi Briggs and a banker, Adedamola Bolodeoku, were arraigned before Justice Babs Kuewumi. Dudafa, Briggs and Bolodeoku, however, pleaded not guilty to a 17-count charge brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Yesterday, Dudafa and Briggs, through their lawyers, urged the court to set aside the guilty plea entered on the firm' behalf by their representatives.
They urged the court to replace the guilty plea and with a "not-guilty" plea for the companies. They also contended that the court lacked jurisdiction to accept the companies' guilty plea. The defendants said those who pleaded guilty for the companies did not exhibit any letter authorising them to do so by the firms' board.
They argued that the prosecution failed to comply with Section 477(3) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 which specifies that such a representative must have authorisation.
Dudafa's lawyer, Gbenga Oyewole, said the four representatives had earlier made statements to both the EFCC and the court denying any connection with the companies and alleging that their names and signatures were forged.
Besides, he said Mrs Jonathan had sued EFCC claiming ownership of the funds in the companies' accounts, adding that neither the Federal Government not any state had stated that the funds were stolen from them.
According to him, the same representatives had earlier denied any link to the companies when they were first charged before Justice Abdulazeez Anka, who sat during the vacation. He said Justice Anka replaced their guilty plea with "not guilty" after their denial.
"The purported representatives did not produce a statement of appointment by the companies," Oyewole argued.
But, EFCC's lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, urged the court to refuse the applications.
He said there was evidence at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) that Davies, Baro, Fredrick and Ebenezer were the companies' directors.
Oyedepo said the four also had the mandate to operate the Skye Bank accounts where the $15.5million is.
Besides, he said the companies representatives were of sound mind and made a deliberate decision to plead guilty.
"The prima facie evidence before Your Lordship is that those who appeared before Your Lordship are the directors of the fourth to seventh defendants (the companies). EFCC said the accused persons conspired on November 13, 2013 in Lagos to launder $15,591,700.
It said the defendants "reasonably ought to have known that the funds form part of the proceeds of an unlawful act".
Seagate Property, Dudafa, Bolodeoku and Sompre Omiebi (said to be at large) were accused of indirectly retaining $1,094,500 through a Skye Bank Plc account (2110002207) between November 14 and 19, 2013. EFCC said the money "forms part of an unlawful act to wit: stealing."
They were also accused of indirectly retaining $1,200,000 through the Skye Bank account between January 21 and December 19, 2014; as well as $1,349,700 through the same account between March 31 and May 20, 2015, among others.
Justice Kuewunmi adjourned until October 7 for ruling.