The absence of the defence counsel, Gboyega Oyewole (SAN), in court on Wednesday stalled the trial in absentia of suspected internet fraudster, Ismaila Mustapha, popularly known as Mompha and his company, Ismalob Global Investment Limited.
No reason was given for his absence. Justice Mojisola Dada of the Lagos State Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja had to adjourn the commencement of trial to December 16.
At the last sitting of the court, the judge had ordered the continuation of Mompha’s trial despite his continued absence in court. Justice Dada made the order at the instance of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The court made the order following a submission by the EFCC counsel, Mr Abbas Mohammed, that the defendant had jumped bail and the Commission had made frantic efforts to rearrest Mompha without success.
At the proceedings today, the EFCC Prosecutor, Mr. S. I Suleiman told the Court that the Commission was ready to proceed with the trial but Mompha’s counsel was absent.
“The learned Silk ought to appear for commencement of trial, we have two witnesses in court, they’ve been seated in the court,” he said.
The counsel was, however, disposed to allowing another adjournment for the defence team to appear in court.
Justice Dada subsequently adjourned to give the defence another opportunity to be present in court.
Mompha was arrested on January 10, 2022, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and arraigned on Jan. 12 alongside his company, Ismalob Global Investment Limited, on an 8-count charge 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. Mompha pleaded not guilty to the 8 counts. He also pleaded not guilty to the first 6 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, one of the sureties, the judge ordered 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, 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 an amended 22-count charge bordering on cyber fraud and money laundering to the tune of N32.9bn.