Alleged N4.8bn Fraud: Judge Threatens Bizman Cletus Ibeto With Bench Warrant

Chief Cletus Ibeto

The scheduled arraignment of a billionaire businessman, Chief Cletus Ibeto alongside his company, Ibeto Energy Development Company before an Ikeja High Court, Lagos, today, suffered another setback as he failed to appear before the court for the third time.

Chief Ibeto was dragged before Justice Ismail Ijelu on a 10 count-charge by the he Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

His offences bordering on alleged  obtaining by pretences, fraudulent conversion of property, criminal breach of trust, forgery, and deception.

The anti graft commission said his offences contravened the provision of Section 1 of the Advance Fee Fraud Act 2006 and Section 365(3d) and (e), 366 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.

When the matter was called, the EFCC counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) told court that the case was adjourned on September 28, 2023 to today for arraignment following the absence of the defendant.

Jacobs (SAN) said that the court adjourned the matter based on the defendants’ application for them to appear today for arraignment. “The senior counsel appeared for them that day and pleaded with your lordship that the first defendant had medical issue.

“The defendants counsel had promised to produce him on the next adjourned, and that’s why we are here”.

The defendant counsel, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) in his response said that the law is not a respecter of any person, he noted that he is of the firm view that the matter that can be resolved, and if given some time it can be resolved.

While admitting that he had no medical report with him in court to explain the absence of the defendant, he stressed further that the issue at stake was one that could be resolved between the complainant and the defendants.

He urged the court if they can be accommodated in that regard and that is his respectful plea.

Jacobs (SAN) in his responded stated that he agreed that plea bargain is encouraged even in criminal matters. But however said that the EFCC gave them the opportunity to go and resolve their differences and that they did not seize the opportunity, even before the charges were filed.

“My lord, there should be arraignment of the defendant first before the court will assume jurisdiction to do anything.”

After listened to the both sides, Justice Ijelu, expressed concerns that the defence counsel seemed to be trying to deceive the court.

The judge said: “The court believes that when counsel, senior counsel at that appear before the court and inform the court that an action will be taken and on the basis of that adjournment was sought, it is the view of the court that the action must be taken.

“The court exists for strict business and does not want to believe that the learned senior counsel deceived the court by taking adjournment at the last date, and pleaded passionately that he would bring the medical report today, and that whatever happens, he will be here today.

“Appearing to now say that the defendant is still healing.That should not be; counsel must be seen as taking his words seriously, particularly senior counsel. One wonders the type of example you are setting for junior counsel, and this court is not pleased with that.This is the third time that this case will be called and nothing has been done about it.

“Even if there will be plea bargain, he has to come and take his plea before the court can assume jurisdiction. The defendant cannot be shielded from coming to court. 

He threatened to issue a bench warrant against him if he failed to appear in court the next adjourned date.

Justice Ijelu therefore adjourned the case to November 3, 2023 for arraignment.

The charge against Chief Ibeto read: “that you Chief Cletus Ibeto, Ibeto Energy Development Limited and Odoh Holdings Limited 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 Limited and Sir Daniel Chukwudozie, the sum of N4.8 billion, 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 Limited, when he only had 7.9 hectares of the said land.

Count 2 states that the defendants obtained N2.5 billion, from their victim as consideration for a non-existent 14.1 hectares of land while count 3 claims that they forged certain documents.

While the third Count states that the defendants on or about January 30, 2018, allegedly with intent to defraud forged a Deed Of Sublease between Odoh Holdings Limited and Ibeto Development Limited purportedly, registered as No 47, Page 47, Vol. 280 of the Lands Registry, Rivers State wherein they claimed that Odoh Holdings Limited acquired leasehold interest in respect of 22.6536.

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, and punishable under the same laws.