Four companies which were convicted by Justice Babs Kuewumi of the Federal High Court in Lagos for laundering $15.591million allegedly belonging to former first lady Mrs. Patience Jonathan, have asked the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal to overturn the conviction.
The four companies: Pluto Property and Investment company Ltd, Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Ltd, Transocean Property and investment company Ltd and Globus Integrarted Service Ltd
It will be recalled that the four companies, were alleged by the EFCC to have been used by former special assistant to former President Goodluck Jonathan on Domestic Affairs, Waripama-Owei Dudafa to launder the $15.591 million dollars.
When the companies were arraigned before the lower court, four men who represented the companies, namely Friday Davis, Agbor Baro, Dioghowori Frederick and Taiwo Ebenezer, pleaded guilty to the charge.
The sum involved in the criminal case is the same money which Mrs. Jonathan is claiming belongs to her as the sole signatory to the accounts of the convicted companies.
She, however, denied ownership of the companies.
However in a new twist, the companies, through their lawyer Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), said the identities of those who “purportedly” pleaded guilty on their behalf were “unverified”.
According to the firms, the representatives did not present any evidence that they were duly appointed.
They were arraigned along with a former Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to President Jonathan, Waripamo Dudafa, a lawyer Amajuoyi Briggs and a banker, Adedamola Bolodeoku, who all pleaded not guilty.
In the proposed eight-ground Notice of Cross-Appeal, Ozekhome said Section 477 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 requires persons seeking to represent corporate entities to have a statement of their appointment as the reongnised representatives.
“The persons purporting to be representing of the cross-appellants failed to produce such statement of appointment which needed not to be under seal.
“By virtue of Section 478 of the ACJA 2015, the Honourable Court ought to have entered a plea of ‘not guilty’ for the cross-appellants, rather than allow the unverified plea of ‘guilty’ by persons purporting to be representing the cross appellants,” the firms said.
Ozekhome recalled that Briggs had vehemently opposed the guilty plea and urged Justice Kuewumi to change it to “not guilty” because of the joint charge and the doubt about the representatives’ authenticity.
Among the grounds of appeal is that the learned trial judge erred in law when he failed to grant Briggs’ application seeking to set aside the plea of “guilty” by the representatives.
Ozekhome said: “The proof of evidence as borne out by court’s records shows that the purported representatives had denied ever having anything to do with the cross-appellants (companies), who are corporate entities, in their extra judicial statements which were presented before court by the complainant.
“The purported representatives of the cross appellant had also alleged that their signatures on the forms CAC 02 and Bank Mandate forms were forged.
“The purported representatives of the cross-appellants, could not, on the face of incontrovertible facts, including their own extra judicial statements, be taken as the authentic representatives of the cross-appellants to the extent of even pleading ‘guilty’ to a charge against the cross-appellants.”