The trial of one Kolawole Adedayo Erinle, alongside his firm, Rinde-Remdex Nigeria Limited, was stalled on Friday, due to absence of the counsel for the second defendant – the company with whom he is standing trial.
Recall that the defendants are standing trial for an alleged $1.4million fraud.
This case has been reassigned to Justice Ramon Oshodi of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos, following the retirement of Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo from the Judiciary.
Erinle and his company are standing trial on a three-count charge bordering on conspiracy, retention of proceeds of criminal conduct, and obtaining money under false pretence to the tune of $1,410,000 (One Million Four-Hundred and Ten Thousand United States Dollars).
The defendant is alleged to have defrauded the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, KCUMB, in the United States of about $1,412,509 USD.
One of the charges reads: “Kolawole Adedayo Erinle and Edward Dada (still at large), sometime in 2019, at Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, conspired to falsely represent yourselves as J.E. Dunn, a local construction company in America, with intent to gain monetary advantage in the sum of $1,410,000 (One Million Four-Hundred and Ten Thousand United States Dollars) by creating a fake domain name jedunn.org and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 8 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act No 14, 2006.”
Another count reads: “Kolawole Adedayo Erinle, Rinde-Remdex Nigeria Limited and Edward Dada (still at large) on or about the 3rd day of May 2019, at Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, retain the control of $1,410,000 (One Million Four-Hundred and Ten Thousand United States Dollars) in your Access Bank account, which sum you knew to be proceeds of various internet and cybercrime.”
He pleaded “not guilty” to the charges when he was arraigned before Justice Oshodi on October 28, 2022.
At the resumed trial, the prosecuting counsel, Tayo Banjo announced appearance before Justice Oshodi, adding that the prosecution had two witnesses who travelled all the way from Abuja and Osun State to testify.
But further proceedings could not go on because only the counsel for the first defendant, Lawal Pedro, SAN was present in court, while the Counsel for the second defendant, Olayinka Farounbi, was again absent in court.
When Erinle (the defendant) was asked if he would want his counsel, who is present in court to also represent the second defendant since he is the alter ego of the company, he said, “No”.
At the last sitting on December 5, 2022, the trial could not also continue because the second defendant counsel, Farounbi had sent in a letter to the court that he was “sick and hospitalised”.
Hence, the trial was adjourned till February 3, 2023.
Though counsel for the first defendant was present in court, Farounbi was again absent and did not send a representative.
He was said to be recuperating having just been discharged from the hospital.
Worried that the matter has suffered four adjournments, the Commission’s lawyer noted that, the situation is “a calculated attempt and ploy to delay the trial”, and that the defendant had ample time to have got a new counsel.
Acording to him: “At the last sitting, counsel for the second defendant wrote to the court on ground of ill-health, and that was last year.
“The defendant has got ample time to get a new counsel, knowing fully well that the lawyer of his company is not feeling well.
“The first defendant is the mind and the brain behind the second defendant and he is represented here in court today.”
Banjo said that the two witnesses, who came outside of jurisdiction, were also present at the last sitting, but the matter could not go on due to absence of the defence counsel.
He asked the court to revoke the bail of the defendant, stating that such will ensure that the second defendant is fully represented at the next proceeding.
“This matter started from my lord, Honourable Justice Taiwo, retired and till now, trial is yet to start.”
Pedro argued that he only knew the first defendant and not the second defendant.
He further explained before the court that the information he had was that the counsel for the second defendant had been discharged from hospital but currently recuperating.
The trial judge noted that the court would grant the adjournment at the instance of the second defendant, “in the interest of justice”, saying that the reason that resulted in the absence of the counsel was on ground of ill-health.
The court also refused the application to revoke the bail of the first defendant.
“But there must be an end to litigation,” Justice Oshodi ruled.
He adjourned the trial till February 7, 9 and 10, 2023, stating that “there shall be no further adjournment at the instance of the second defendant”.