A Lebanese suspect accused of cyber fraud and money laundering, Hamza Koudeih, on Tuesday asked a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos to allow him return to his country for medical check-up.
But the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) opposed his application on the ground that he was a flight risk.
Koudeih and his Nigerian co-defendant, Kayode Philip, popularly known as ‘Voice of the King’ are standing trial before Justice Muslim Hassan on a charge of engaging in cyber fraud and laundering the sums of $7.06 million, £1 million, and €80,000.
In previous documents put before the court, the EFCC had alleged that Koudeih is an associate of internet celebrity, Ismaila Mustapha, popularly known as Mompha, whom the anti-graft agency is prosecuting for an alleged N32.9 billion fraud.
Koudeih who is a resident in the Eko Atlantic area of Lagos approached vacation judge, Justice Ringim Tijjani, via an application filed on July 18 and argued by his counsel Abdulhamid Mohammed.
He sought permission to see his psychiatrist in the Lebanese capital, Beirut and asked 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.”
The suspect said Dr Karam advised that he required further investigations of his medical condition and treatment in Lebanon, necessitating that he travels abroad.
He added that he had a Nigerian wife and son, who are both living in Lagos, but the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, opposed the application.
“We are vehemently opposing this application,” Oyedepo told to court. “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?” the lawyer queried.
Oyedepo referenced a counter affidavit sworn to by an EFCC investigator, Idi Musa, in support of his opposition.
According to him, the claims of the applicant are not verifiable, and the attached exhibit is a ploy to pull a wool over the judicial eye of the court to grant the applicant’s prayers.
The EFCC lawyer stressed that it would be in the interest of justice to refuse the applicant’s application, insisting that the proof of evidence before the court clearly linked the applicant to the alleged offence.
“On the whole, I urge my lord to refuse this application.”
After listening to both parties in the case, Justice Ringim adjourned the ruling on the matter until September 9.