The Lagos State Special Offences Court sitting in the Ikeja area has ordered the continuation of the trial of internet celebrity and alleged fraudster, Ismaila Mustapha, popularly known as Mompha, despite his continued absence in court.
Justice Mojisola Dada who made the order on Wednesday at the instance of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) also adjourned the case until November 16 for the continuation of the trial.
She further ordered the anti-graft agency to make sure to bring its witnesses on the next adjourned date.
The court made the order following a submission by the EFCC counsel, Abbas Mohammed, that the commission had made frantic efforts to arrest Mompha without success.
He urged the court to grant the adjournment to enable the trial to continue in absentia.
“My lord, we shall be asking for another date to enable prosecution of the defendant on trial in absentia,” Mohammed said.
The defence counsel, Mr Kolawale Salami, had no objections to the EFCC’s application. He aligned with the prosecution and confirmed the position of the commission.
Mompha was arrested by the EFCC on January 10 and arraigned on January 12 alongside his company, Ismalob Global Investment Limited, on eight counts of alleged money laundering of over N6 billion.
In the counts, the defendants were accused of conspiracy to launder funds obtained through unlawful activity, retention of such funds, transfer of funds for a suspect Olayinka Jimoh popularly known as Nappy Boy, and unlawful transfer of funds for a record label, among others.
The EFCC also alleged that Mompha concealed his interest in expensive wristwatches and other movable assets valued at over N70 million.
The offence is contrary to relevant sections of the Advance Fee Fraud Act of 2006 and the EFCC Act of 2004.
But Mompha pleaded not guilty to the eight counts. He also pleaded not guilty to the first six counts on behalf of his company, Islamob Limited.
On January 18, he was admitted to bail in the sum of N200 million with two sureties in like sum while the judge ordered that one of the sureties must own property valued at N100 million within the jurisdiction of the court.
The court also ordered the defendant to return his international passport to the custody of the court while ordering his remand in any correctional centre of his choice in Lagos, pending the perfection of the bail conditions.
On March 28, he was released to his lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Gboyega Oyewole, shortly after the court varied his bail conditions.
Since then, he has failed to appear in court on at least three scheduled dates for his trial.
On June 10, the EFCC accused him of flouting the court’s order by travelling to Dubai with a new international passport. On June 22, the court issued a bench warrant for his arrest following his continued failure to present himself for his trial.
The court also revoked the bail it granted the defendant. This is the second case in which the EFCC is charging Mompha.
He is also standing trial at the Federal High Court in Lagos on amended 22 counts bordering on cyber-fraud and money laundering to the tune of N32.9 billion.