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Court Dismisses Fraud Charge Against Oil Marketer, Berates EFCC for Lack of Evidence

Anthony Adejugbe

Justice Lateefa Okunnu of a Lagos High Court sitting at Ikeja, Nigeria, on Wednesday dismissed the N272.5m Fraud charge initiated against an Independent Oil Marketer, Anthony Adejugbe, alongside his firm, Tonique Oil Services Limited, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

It would be recalled that over five years ago, the anti-graft agency had filed a two-count charge that touches on stealing and fraud against the Oil Marketer and his firm.

In acquitting and discharging Adejugbe, Justice Okunnu held that the Commission failed to come up with substantial evidence to prove its case against the defendants.

Justice Okunnu said, “There is, therefore, reasonable doubt regarding the case of the prosecution that the payment in question was intended by the defendants for use in paying off part of the second defendant’s loan.
”In the event, and by reason of all the foregoing, it is my findings that this is neither a case of stealing, nor one of obtaining by false pretence.”

Justice Okunnu further contended that “The prosecution failed to bring strong evidence enough to show that there was such known fact or even, a whiff of rumour to back their case of alleged fraud against the defendants.

“I had earlier explained that the missing link necessary for the prosecution to slot in as to prove that charge was for them to establish the requisite ‘men’s rea’ on the part of the defendants.

”Given the inability of the prosecution to prove the requisite standard, its assertion that the money the defendants paid to Sterling Bank Plc was for the purpose of settling the second defendant’s liability to the bank cannot be firmly established.

“I did not see or find anything that suggests, talk less of prove, that the defendants intended to use the money as a pledge or some other form of security.

”That is not the case before the court. The case, rather, is that they intended to use it to pay off a debt.

“In the event, and by the reasons of the foregoing, it is my finding that it is neither a case of stealing nor one of obtaining by false pretense.

“The evidence adduced by the prosecution in legal proof of the ‘mens rea’ for the offences charged (the intention behind the actions of the defendants) was not sufficient, so the little that exists from the prosecution came to be eroded by what the defendants have said, the prosecution, as a result, was unable to sustain its case.

“And so, without further ado, I hereby dismiss the case against both defendants.

“Each of them, therefore, stands acquitted and discharged on each of the two counts charge.”

The anti-graft agency had on November 13, 2012, docked Adejugbe and his company before Justice Okunnu in a charge designated ID/198C/2012.

Specifically, the EFCC accused the defendants of obtaining fraudulently a sum to the tune of N272, 500 million, from a company, Watergate Petroleum and Gas Limited, under the false pretense of supplying the company five million liters of petroleum.

But the Oil Marketer alongside his company denied the charge made against them by the Commission.

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