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Court rules on Lebanese medical trip request during trial over cybercrime, Sept 9

A Lebanese currently standing trial fraud and money laundering suspect, Hamza Koudeih, on Tuesday sought leave of a Federal High Court in Lagos to return to his country for medical checkup.

But the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) opposed his application on the ground that he was a flight risk.

Koudeih alongside his Nigerian co-defendant Kayode Philip, alias ‘Voice of the King’ are standing trial before Justice Muslim Hassan on a charge of engaging in cyber fraud and laundering the sums of $7.06m, £1m and €80,000.

The resident of Eko Atlantic in Lagos approached vacation judge, Justice Ringim Tijjani via a July July 18, 2021 application filed and argued by his counsel Abdulhamid Mohammed.

He sought permission to see his psychiatrist in the Lebanese capital, Beirut and prayed the judge to release his international passport to enable him process his trip.

“Before my arraignment before this Honourable Court, I have been under periodic medical treatment for generalised anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder by my Doctor in Lebanon, Dr. Georges Elie Karam (MD), a Psychiatry and Clinical Psychology Medical Doctor in St. George Hospital University Medical Centre, Beirut, Lebanon,” Koudeih said.

He explained that following his arraignment and trial in Nigeria, he had been seeing Nigerian physicians, including Dr. B. Fadipe who “recommended certain medications to subside the symptoms of my health challenge, although the treatment did not yield any positive result…

“As a result of my medical condition, I usually become anxious, depressed, suffer from insomnia, emotional distress, unwanted thoughts, excessive vigilance and constant fear, shortness of breath, palpitation and other symptoms ascribable to the medical challenge,” Koudeih added.

He said Dr. Karam advised that he required further investigations of his medical condition and treatment in Lebanon, necessitating that he travel abroad, adding that he had a Nigerian wife and son, both resident in Lagos.

But EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo opposed him.

He said: “We are vehemently opposing this application. This is a ploy to run away from the trial pending before this court. 

“Going by the exhibits Annexed by the applicant, how can a (Nigerian) doctor who has treated the applicant for 14 years now suddenly say that he can no longer be doing so? There are hospitals in Lagos that the applicant has been using.

“This defendant is a citizen of Lebanon. What if he is granted permission to go and he doesn’t return?”

Oyedepo referenced a counter affidavit sworn to by an EFCC investigator, Idi Musa, in support of his opposition

The lawyer contended further that “the claims of the Applicant are not verifiable and the attached Exhibit is a ploy to pull a wool over the judicial eye of this honourable court to grant the Applicant’s prayers.”

According to him, it would be in the interest of justice “to refuse the Applicant’s Application, more so when the proof of evidence before this Honourable Court clearly linked the applicants to the alleged offence.

“On the whole, I urge my lord to refuse this application.”

Justice Ringim adjourned ruling till September 9.

According to the EFCC, Koudeih is an associate of Internet celebrity, Ismaila Mustapha, alias Mompha, whom the anti-graft agency has also charged with N32.9bn fraud.

The defendants were arraigned in November last year by the EFCC, which accused them of attempting to retain the sums of $6million and £1million in the Bank of China.

The EFCC said they also “knowingly engaged in computer phishing and spamming which resulted in acquiring sensitive information” from various emails.

The prosecution said they were found in possession of electronic spamming tools such as MailListFetcher.exe;Tunnelier.exe; spamassassin.exe; Fast Email Extractor.exe; and AtomicMailSender.exe.

It said Philip also had illegal possession of various credit cards issued by JP Morgan Chase; Chase Bank of the United States of America; American Express; and Wells Fargo.

Philip, according to the EFCC, also procured Dakota Entertainment Ltd and Influx Computer and Hardware Ltd, for N11mllion and N19.25million, respectively.

The EFCC said the funds were proceeds of fraud.

The anti-graft agency said Koudeih and Philip acted contrary to the provisions of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2015; as well as Section 27(1)(b) of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act 2015.

Both defendants pleaded not guilty.

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