The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday re-arraigned a one-time Lagos socialite, Fred Ajudua, for allegedly defrauding two Dutch businessmen of 1.69 million dollars (about N252.8 million).
Ajudua and his accomplice, Charles Orie, appeared before Justice Kudirat Jose of an Ikeja High Court on a four-count charge of conspiracy and obtaining money under false pretences.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the defendants were earlier arraigned on July 24, 2003 before Justice Joseph Oyewole.
The re-arraignment was necessitated by Oyewole’s withdrawal from the trial following a petition to the EFCC by a former Chief of Army Staff, Retired Lt.-Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi.
Bamaiyi had alleged in the petition that Ajudua used the names of the judge and others to defraud him of about 8.39 million dollars (N1.3 billion).
During Wednesday’s proceedings, the EFCC’s Counsel, Mr Olumuyiwa Balogun, asked the court to order the defendants to retake their pleas.
The court acceded to his request and the charge was read to them.
Balogun alleged that the defendants had conspired with three men — Abiola Fawehinmi, Steven Joiner and Rasheed Adekunle — now at large, to commit the offences between July 30, 1999 and Feb.9, 2000.
He alleged that they defrauded the businessmen – Messrs Remy Cina and Pierre Vijgen — by claiming that the money was for sundry payments to various government officials.
Balogun said the defendants claimed that the payments would help them to facilitate a contract worth 18 million dollars on behalf of the complainants.
According to him, the offences contravene Sections 1(a) and (b) of the Advance Fee Fraud Act of 1995 as amended by Decree No. 62 of 1999.
Ajudua and Orie pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The judge ordered the defendants to be remanded in prison custody pending the hearing of their bail applications fixed for Feb. 20. (NAN)