LAWYERS yesterday disagreed at the Federal High Court, Lagos over who would represent the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the trial of suspects allegedly involved in a multi-billion-naira fraud at the Consolidated Discount House Limited.
The contest to represent the anti-graft agency therefore, stalled the arraignment of the suspects.
While A. B. Ozioko, who brought the suspects to court from the Commission’s custody announced appearance for the prosecution and informed Justice Mohammed Idris that the matter was for arraignment, another lawyer, D. C. Enwelum, also announced appearance for the prosecution.
He said he was authorised by a fiat issued by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) to prosecute the case.
Ozioko said his understanding was that the EFCC, and not the AGF, would handle the case.
Due to this conflict, Justice Idris said the issue of who has the authority to prosecute the suspects must be sorted out before the suspects are arraigned.
Three separates charges were filed against the suspects.
Defendants in the first charge are Stephen Akinretoye, Peter Ololo and Falcon Securities Limited.
The second charge has Akinretoye, Mudashiru Shittu, Olawale Omisore, Captain Eddy Ndoms, Aquatic Transport Limited, Cross Oceans Limited and Ehco Ventures Limited as defendants.
In the third charge, Akinretoye, Shittu, Larai Claude-Eninn, Hassan Gbenga, Ajibola Jolaosho, Omisore Olawale, Omisope Johnson, Onimole Adebawale and Emmanuel Odedina are the respondents.
In the first charge, accused were alleged to have between January 1 and December 31, 2007, agreed among themselves to defraud Consolidated Discounts Limited by granting loans to Falcon Securities Limited, a company owned by Ololo, without proper documentation.
They allegedly converted NN43.9billion being funds belonging to Consolidated Discount in contravention of Section 15 (2) and 15 (3) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2012.
The second charge alleged that Akinterotoye defrauded the company in the guise of granting loans to the fourth to seventh defendants and converted various sums, such as N520milion, N303million and N600million.
The prosecution said investigations revealed that Consolidated Discount had already paid for the vessels before the dates of the various applications for loan made by the fourth to seventh accused persons.
In the third charge, the prosecution said the defendants, as employees of Consolidated Discount House, committed an act of fraud by converting N915.7million belonging to Consolidated Discount.
Shittu, (as Managing Director) and Gbenga (as Financial Controller), between March 2012 and June 2013, allegedly transferred N1.6billion from Consolidated Discount’s Union Bank Plc account, numbered 0033295449, to various companies belonging to them.
Ozioko applied that the suspects be remanded in EFCC custody to guarantee their attendance in court at the next date.
But defence counsel, including Osaro Eghobamien (SAN), said the suspects had been on administrative bail.
According to him, their clients were detained when they responded to EFCC’s summons on Monday.
Justice Idris ordered that parties maintain status quo ante bellum, which he explained to mean that they continue to enjoy the administrative bail granted them before the charge was filed and served them and adjourned the three cases to March 3 for arraignment.