Covid-19 fraud trial: Defense lawyer wants objective reportage

Bunmi Aina-Craig, a defense counsel in the case of the two Nigerians charged over COVID-19 PPEs multi dollars fraud, has pleaded with journalists not to trivialise the case, adding that the accused persons are innocent until proven guilty.

Craig, a defense counsel to the 1st defendant in the matter made the plea shortly after Justice Anwulika Chikere ruled for an adjournment in the case till November 9 to take arguments on the bail applications filed by the defendants.

At the trial, Babatunde Adesanya and Akinpelu Hassan Abass, were arraigned at the Federal High Court, Abuja, on a 10-count charge bordering on obtaining by false pretence the sums of 1.5 million euro and another 880,000 euro as advanced payment for the supply of COVID-19 Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs) valued at 14.7 million euro from one Freiherr Fredrick Von Hahn.

Also charged with the duo is a company, Musterpoint Investment Nig. Ltd. where Abbas happens to be a Managing Director.

Meanwhile, Adesanya, Abbas and Musterpoint Investment Ltd are the first, second and third respondents in the case.

In the allegation and the charges leveled against them, they were alleged to have cloned a Dutch company to defraud it of COVID 19 Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) worth millions of dollars.

The duo were accused of being members of a sophisticated transnational criminal network that cloned the corporate website of ILBN Holdings BV, Holland to transact with and defraud Hahn, a representative of the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The suspects were said to have fraudulently obtained sums of money using pseudonyms.

While making a case during the arraignment, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), who appeared for the prosecution, told the court that the two defendants and Musterpoint Investment Nig. Ltd were involved in the multi-million Euro scam.

Malami said the amended charge substituted for the earlier charge is dated and filed on Oct. 17.

In one of the charges, it was said that the defendants obtained by false pretence the said sums of money through an account with Citibank, London.

They were also accused of conducting financial transactions illegally.

The defendants are accused of cloning and operating a website (Musterpoint) similar to the original which is based in Holland, Netherland, through which the illegal transaction was carried out.

After the charges were read to them, they pleaded not guilty to all the ten count charges.

At the proceeding, counsel to the second and third defendants, Adu Ojo-Abah moved for bail application.

He pleaded with the court to grant the defendants bail, saying he has no access to them since they were arrested on August 15. He said he has not been able to put up any defense because he has not met with them.

Harping on the same argument, counsel to the first defendant, Bunmi Aina-Craig, equally prayed the court to grant Adesanya bail based on health grounds.

According to her, the police report also had it that the defendant was sick and needed medical care. 

She then pleaded that her client be moved from police custody to enable him get proper medical care.

Countering, Malami described the bail applications as oral, arguing that the defendants were not in a position to determine where they are to be detained.

“By convention and international standard, a correctional facility is good for the detainees, saying holding them in a police facility is not meant for people facing trial but that correctional facility is in tandem with the international charter.

“No legal justification that the defendants be detained in police custody. Correctional centres are known to have efficient health facilities than police cells. They should be moved to the correctional centre”,

“I apply that the application be overruled” Malami argued.

Meanwhile, Craig maintained that there was no law that says a bail application must be in writing, just as the trial judge reiterated that application for bail would be taken, urging the prosecution to serve the defendants counsel copy of the motion.

Justice Anwuli Chikere has since adjourned the matter till Nov. 9 to take arguments on the bail applications.

He then ordered the defendants back to the Correctional Centre in Kuje.

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