N855m Fraud: A’Court To Hear EFCC Objections Against Convicted Indian, Others April 4

The Lagos division of Court of Appeal, has fixed May 4, for the hearing of the objections raised by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against the appeal filed by an Indian businessman, Ashok Israni and three others, seeking to quash their conviction over N855 million fraud.

Justice Kudirat Jose of the Lagos State High Court sitting in Igbosere, had on December 9, 2019, jailed Israni, two officials of Keystone Bank, Anayo Nwosu and Olajide Oshodi, on an amended 15-count charge bordering on conspiracy and obtaining by false pretence to the tune of N855 million.

The Judge had sentenced them to five years imprisonment each for stealing.

Justice Jose had also convicted NULEC Industries Limited belonging to Israni and Keystone Bank Limited, in her judgment.

The companies were also ordered to pay a fine of N20 million to the Federal Government on counts 1, 10 and 13. While the convicts ordered to restitute the sum of N395 million to the victim of the fraud.

But just four months after their conviction, they were released from prison by officials of the Kirikiri Centre of the Nigerian Correctional Services (NCoS), allegedly on the directive of the Lagos State Government, despite the pendency of their appeals before the upper court.

The EFCC, in the objections to the appeal filed on its behalf by its counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), insisted that it is the law that pardon cannot be granted to convicts whose rights of appeal have not been exhausted.

The anti-graft agency is also praying the appellate court declare the purported pardon ‘illegal’ since the appellants’ appeals had been filed and entered since February 13, 2020. Still, it could not be heard due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forestalled judicial activities.

The EFCC further claimed that immediately after one of the appellants, Anayo Nwosu was released, he allegedly made so many publications on manysocial media platforms stating that he was wrongly convicted, jailed and maltreated because of the whims and caprices of the Nominal Complainant.

At the last hearing of the matter sometimes November 2022, the court had ordered the lawyer of the convicts/applicant, Bode Olanipekun (SAN), to produce the instrument of their pardon issued to them by the Lagos State government.

At the resumed hearing of the matter on Tuesday, Olanipekun informed the court that he had filed an affidavit of facts which contained ‘the instrument of the pardon granted to his clients by the Lagos State government.

However, Jacobs told the court that he was just being served with the affidavit in court and that he needed time to study it.

Following the development, the panel led by Justice Muhammad Suraj, adjourned till Thursday, May 4, for the parties to argue their applications.