LAGOS: THE trial of alleged fraud kingpin, Fred Ajudua, could not proceed on Monday due to the absence of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) witnesses.
He is facing charges of defrauding two Dutch businessmen of US$1.69 million. Ajudua and one Charles Okorie were earlier arraigned before Justice Joseph Oyewole in July 2003 for allegedly defrauding Remy Cina and Pierre Vijgen between July 1999 and February 2000.
The matter was however stalled for almost 10 years as the defendants failed to attend their trial.
The duo was however re-arraigned last month before Justice Kudirat Jose on the same allegations.
At Monday’s hearing, EFCC lawyer Chief Ogunde Wemimo told the court that some of the prosecution witnesses who reside abroad where not in the country because the commission was unsure of how that matter would proceed.
He noted that the defense counsel led by Olalekan Ojo had last Friday April 25 served the commission with a process for stay of proceeding but later called to say that it was served in error.
He said that based on the incident, the commission could not extend an invitation to the witness to travel down to Nigeria.
Ogunde further said the commission was careful in extending invitation to the witnesses because a similar incident had occurred when the witnesses came but the matter did not proceed.
He subsequently asked for a 21 day period to enable the EFCC get the witnesses to attend the trial.
Olalekan however opposed the request for 21 days adjournment saying that the period was too long to get a witness from abroad.
Ojo noted that it would be wrong for the court to grant such long adjournment when his client has been refused bail.
He also contended that the fact that his chamber mistakenly served the EFCC with a wrong process was not enough excuse for the commission not to bring its witnesses to the court.
Justice Jose however overruled Ojo’s argument and adjourned the matter till May 23 for trial.
The EFCC had alleged that the defendants had conspired with three men — Abiola Fawehinmi, Steven Joiner and Rasheed Adekunle — now at large, to commit the offences.
The commission also noted that the defendants deceived the victims that the money was for sundry payments to various government officials.
The EFCC further alleged that the defendants claimed that the payments would help them to facilitate a contract worth $18 million.