N855m Fraud: Appeal Court Reserves Judgment In Convicted Indian, Bankers’ Appeal

The Lagos division of Court of Appeal, today, reserved judgment in an appeal filed by an Indian businessman, Ashok Israni and two officials of Keystone Bank, Anayo Nwosu and Olajide Oshodi, against their conviction over an N855 million fraud.

The appellate court had in May reserved judgment in the appeal after lawyers to all the parties argued and adopted their processes.

But the appeal suffered a setback following the death of one of the members of the special panel of the Appeal Court, Justice Joseph Shagbaor Ikyegh, set up to handle the case.

Based on the development, the case was reheard by the regular three-person court panel led by Justice Olukayode Bada.

Justice Kudirat Jose of an Igbosere High Court of Lagos State, had, on December 9, 2019, jailed Israni, Nwosu and Oshodi on an amended 15-count charge bordering on conspiracy and obtaining money by false pretence.

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

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

The company and the bank were also ordered to pay a fine of N20 million to the Federal Government on counts one, 10 and 13.

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.

At the Appeal hearing on Thursday, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) adopted his brief of argument dated April 27, 2023. He argued that there are several legal authorities to the effect that pardon cannot be granted to convicts whose rights of appeal have not been exhausted.

Jacobs submitted that many legal authorities affirmed that a pardon could not be granted to convicts whose appeal rights have not been exhausted.

He urged the court to declare the purported pardon ‘illegal’ since the appellants’ appeals had been filed and entered since February 13, 2020. However, it could not be heard due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forestalled judicial activities.

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

He urged the court to dismiss the appeal and uphold the lower court’s judgement.

Earlier, Counsel to the Appellants, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) and Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN) had urged the court to allow the Appeal, set aside the judgement of the lower court and acquit all the Appellants of all the charges filed against them.

In his submissions, Chief Olanipekun informed the court that the Appellants had filed an affidavit of facts, which contained the instrument of the pardon granted to them by the Lagos State government, stating that the State charged them to court. The State granted them bail due to the upsurge in COVID-19.

After listening to arguments from the parties, Justice Bada reserved the appeal for Judgment