An Indian businessman, Patrick Fernandez, has been re-arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at the Federal High Court, Lagos, for allegedly perpetrating N32 billion fraud.
The accused, who is facing a 56 count-charge of fraud together with three of his companies, pleaded not guilty to all the counts.
He was re-arraigned because the judge previously handling the case, Justice John Tsoho, was transferred to Abuja.
A new judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun-Ishola, has taken over the case, which will start de novo (afresh) before her.
She will be the third judge to handle the case, which began eight years ago.
Fernandez was first arraigned before Justice A. R. Mohammed in 2008, but following the judge’s transfer, the case was re-assigned to Justice Tsoho.
One witness testified before Justice Mohammed; three testified before Justice Tsoho.
Justice Olatoregun-Ishola vowed to ensure the case is not further delayed when it begins anew.
“Counsel should not come and tell me that he has not had breakfast, therefore the matter should not go on,” she warned.
She said parties should be ready to comply with the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 which provides for day-to-day trial.
She thereafter adjourned till June 20, 21 and 22, 2016 for commencement of trial.
Fernandez, previously represented by Late James Ocholi (SAN), has hired a new SAN, Solo Aguma.
An EFCC investigator, Bashir Abdullahi, said the commission learned of the fraud when a bank contacted the agency’s financial intelligence unit.
Testifying before Justice Tsoho, the witness said in July 2008, he was assigned to investigate the case of suspicious financial activities involving Fernandez and his companies.