Saturday, 30th September 2023

Court discharges, acquits businessman of fraud

By Yetunde Ayobami Ojo
05 July 2022   |   2:37 am
The Court of Appeal, Lagos has discharged and acquitted a former Managing Director of Trans-Atlantic Oil, Mr Akinyemi Idowu Jegede, of fraud charge levelled against him by the Economic

Court of Appeal, Lagos

The Court of Appeal, Lagos has discharged and acquitted a former Managing Director of Trans-Atlantic Oil, Mr Akinyemi Idowu Jegede, of fraud charge levelled against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Jegede was convicted by the Lagos High Court in June 2016 on a four-count charge of obtaining money by false pretenses contrary to section 1(3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act No 14 of 2006.

The anti-graft agency had alleged that the convict obtained the sum of N27,6 million from his victims in a dubious forex transaction.  

He was arrested based on two petitions written against him by Amfidel International Limited and Sunny Ositez International Limited.

They alleged that one Ifeanacho Egbuna while being the Branch Manager of Fidelity Bank, Enu-Owa, Lagos Island, collected various monies with a promise that the dollar equivalent would be transferred to the account of their overseas suppliers.

To finalise the transaction, the petitioner issued a draft for the sum of N13.5 million and N14.1 million respectively in the name of Trans Atlantic Global Oil Services Limited, a company owned and operated by the defendant.

He had pleaded not guilty to the charge when he was arraigned by the EFCC.

During the trial, the prosecution called witnesses to testify against him.

The trial judge, in the judgment, had convicted him after finding him guilty as charged. He was sentenced to seven years imprisonment.

Dissatisfied with the judgment of the lower court, the convict, through his counsel, Mr E.D Onyeke, filed appeal on four grounds, stating that the trial judge erred in law when she failed to evaluate or consider the crucial evidence adduced in favour of the defendant by the prosecution witnesses, which was extracted during cross-examination.

The appellant also said the court erred in law, by discountenancing the evidence significant in some of the exhibits tendered before the court.

The three-man panel of Justices, comprising Chidi Nwaoma Uwa, Tunde O. Awotoye and James Gambo Abundaga exonerated the convict of the charge.

In a lead judgment delivered by Justice Awotoye, in the suit mark no CA/L/ 1303C/2017, the court held that evidence presented by the prosecution was not in tandem with the charge against the appellant.

“It is clear that the evidence presented by the prosecution appears different from the charge against the appellant. In short, it cannot be used to prove the charge. 

“This is unfortunate, as the prosecution should have promptly at the earliest time amended the charge to bring it in line with the evidence adduced. I have no hesitation in resolving this sole issue against the respondent.

“This appeal has merit. It is hereby allowed. The judgment of the High Court of Lagos State in suits No. ID/84c/2009 delivered in June 2016, is hereby set aside. In its place, I hereby order that the accused is discharged and acquitted,” the court held.

The presiding justice Uwa also adopted the judgment.

He held that the appeal has merit.

The judge said he resolved the sole issue for determination against the respondent.

“I adopt his reasoning and the decision arrived at as mine in holding that the appeal has merit and accordingly allowed,” he said.

Also, the appellant was exonerated of another fraud charge he was convicted of before Lagos High Court, Ikeja on March 31, 2011.

In that case, he was charged along with a company, ADNOC Petroleum Limited for conspiracy and stealing and was subsequently convicted.

But in a judgment delivered by the Court of Appeal, Lagos, presided over by Justice Aminat Adamu Augie, Justice Sidi Dauda Bagel and Justice Rita Nosakhare Pemu, set aside the high court judgment.

The judges held that the best proof of fact in issue is the documentary evidence that tends to establish the fact alleged, unless and until the same is established, a conviction cannot be grounded.

“I am of the view that the prosecution has been unable to establish guilt against the appellants as required by law, and so appellants are entitled to be discharged and acquittal. The prosecution failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt,” the court held.

“The judgment convicting the appellants is hereby set aside, while the appellants are hereby discharged and acquitted,” the court ruled.