Port Harcourt — A State High Court in Port Harcourt will tomorrow (Thursday) commence hearing on the alleged $130 million fraud between Rivers State government and Saipem Nigeria Contracting Limited.
Recall that the Rivers State government had dragged Saipem SPA, Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited and its Managing Director, Mr. Walter Peviana, and four others to court, over alleged conspiracy and intent to defraud the Government of Rivers State of the sum of $130 million, being advanced payment for the construction of the OCGT gas power plant in Port Harcourt.
After the last adjournment on January 18, 2022, in the Suit No: PHC/3106/CR/2021, the court had fixed today (Wednesday), tomorrow, Thursday and Friday for hearing on substantive matter.
Parties in the Suit are, the Rivers State Government (plaintiff) and Saipem SPA (first defendant), Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited (second defendant), Mr. Walter Peviana (third defendant), Kelechi Sinteh Chinakwe (fourth defendant), Giandomenico Zingali (fifth defendant), Vitto Testaguzza (sixth defendant) and Davide Anelli (seventh defendant).
At the hearing today, counsel for the first, second, third and sixth defendants, Odein Ajumogobia, SAN, drew the attention of the court to the fact that he had preliminary objection to the continuation of the trial.
Ajumogobia told the court that an objection was filed on January 31, 2022, and served on Tuesday, February 1.
Earlier, Counsel to the Rivers State Government, Godwin Obla, SAN, argued that the first and second defendants (Saipem SPA and Saipem Nigeria Contracting Limited respectively), were not represented by anybody in any capacity.
Obla prayed the court to have it on record that, not having been represented by their authorised representatives, but being represented by counsel, puts them (first and second defendants) in category of persons that should be tried in absentia, stressing that it is the position of the law.
Others to be tried in absentia alongside first and second defendants include the fifth, sixth and seventh defendants.
Obla told the court that the practice rules state that the prosecution has about seven days to respond.
However, the defendants’ counsel, Ajumogobia, argued about the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the case.
After listening to both counsels, Justice Okogbule Gbasam, admitted the submission of the State counsel and ruled that the first and second defendants would be tried in absentia.
The judge adjourned the matter to tomorrow for hearing the objection and continuation of the trial.
Follow us on twitter