Court Orders Trial-Within-Trial As Suspect Disowns Statement

 

Justice M. L Abubakar of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, River state has adjourned further hearing in the fraud charge brought against one Etakewen Lucky Ovie by the Port Harcourt Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to June 29 for trial- within- trial. This followed the defendant’s claim that the statement he made to the Commission was extracted by force.

Ovie, who was arraigned on June 11, 2020, pleaded ‘not guilty’ to a two- count charge bordering on identity theft and impersonation contrary to Section 12 (1) of the Cyber Crime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act 2015 and punishable under same Section of the same Act.

One of the counts read: “That you Etakewen Lucky Ovie (a.k.a Liam Denzel Marcellino, Thomas Morrisesey) sometime in 2019 at Choba, Port Harcourt, Rivers State within the jurisdiction of this honourable court did unlawfully intercept and hacked into a face book account of one Divine with intent to use it for fraudulent purposes and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 12 (1) of the Cyber Crime (Prohibition, Prevention etc) Act 2015 and punishable under same Section of the same Act.

At the resumed trial on Tuesday June 23, the first prosecution witness, Usman Ayoola, while being led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, M. C Ferdinand, told the court that the defendant was arrested in the Choba area of Port Harcourt sometime in September 2019 by officers of the Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, for alleged internet fraud and handed over to the Commission for further investigation.

Upon his transfer, he said Ovie volunteered a statement to the EFCC in writing and that his phone was equally analyzed and the information therein printed out in his presence.

“The defendant was interviewed; he volunteered his statements in writing after cautionary words had been administered to him and signed. His phone was also analyzed in which he admitted to the information as contained in the phones. The documents were also printed out in his presence,” the witness said”.

At this point, the prosecution counsel sought to tender the statement of the defendant. When the statement was shown to the defendant, he told the court that he actually wrote the statement but did so under duress.

The defense counsel, Kingdom Chukwuezie consequently prayed the court not to admit the statement in evidence.

This prompted the prosecuting counsel to request for an adjournment to enable her prepare for trial-within-trial to ascertain the voluntariness of the defendant’s statement.

The matter was adjourned to June 29, 2020.

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