Alleged N4.8bn Fraud: Court Adjourns Cletus Ibeto’s Trial Till Oct 24


Justice Oyindamola Ogala of the Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja, on Thursday, July 4, 2024, adjourned till October 24, 2024 further hearing in the alleged N4.8bn fraud trial involving Cletus Ibeto, Chairman, Ibeto Energy Development Company.

Ibeto alongside Ibeto Energy Development Company and Odoh Holdings Ltd are to be arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on 10-count charges bordering on allegations of obtaining by false pretences, fraudulent conversion of property, criminal breach of trust, forgery and deception to the tune of N4.8bn.

Count one reads: “That Chief Cletus Ibeto, Ibeto Energy Development Ltd and Odoh Holdings Ltd., between June 2016 and May 2017, within the jurisdiction of the court, by false pretence and with intent to defraud, obtained from Dozzy Oil & Gas Ltd and Sir Daniel Chukwudozie, the sum of N4.8bn purporting same to be consideration for 22.6536 hectares of land, which he claimed to have at the end of Reclamation Road Layout, Port Harcourt, Rivers State by a deed of sublease executed by Odoh Holdings and Ibeto Energy Development Ltd when he only had 7.9 hectares of the said land.”

Count three reads: “That Chief Cletus Ibeto, Ibeto Energy Development Ltd and Odoh Holdings Ltd., on or about January 30, 2018, allegedly with intent to defraud, forged a Deed Of Sublease between Odoh Holdings Ltd and Ibeto Development Ltd purportedly, registered as No 47, Page 47, Vol. 280 of the Lands Registry, Rivers State wherein they claimed that Odoh Holdings Ltd acquired leasehold interest in respect of 22.6536.”

The defendants are further accused of obtaining the sum of N2.5 billion from their victims as consideration for a non-existent 14.1 hectares of land.

The offences are contrary to Section 1 of the Advance Fee Fraud Act 2006, Section 365(3d) and (e), and Section 366 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.

At Thursday’s sitting, prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, expressed concerns over the plans of the defence regarding the matter, given the fact that the defendant, rather than appearing in court for his arraignment, had chosen to negotiate with the Commission how to pay back his debt.

According to Jacobs, “We need to know what their plans are. Are they planning to continue with the litigation? Or do they want to sit with the prosecution and complainant to negotiate an out-of-court settlement?

“He has paid back a large part of the money, and we need to know whether we should use it as an exhibit or consider it his commitment to an out-of-court settlement because they have continued to file different applications challenging the court’s competence to hear the matter.”

Counsel to the defendant, Adebayo Oshodi, did not react to the submissions by the Jacobs. He, however, sought the leave of the court to re-list an application challenging the court’s territorial jurisdiction.

Responding, Jacobs kicked against the prayer by the defence, saying the application had been voluntarily withdrawn at the instance of the defence team before it was struck out by the court.

“It can not be re-listed before the same court,” he added.

The judged upheld the argument of the prosecution counsel.

Though Justice Ogala also frowned at the move by the defendant, who has been meeting the EFCC investigators on ways to pay back the money he allegedly owes the complainant instead of appearing in court

The judge, however, said she would not comment on the move by the prosecution and the defence to settle the matter out of court.

The case was adjourned till October 24, 2024 for further hearing.