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Court acquits Fabunmi, others of diverting N1.7b funds

By Silver Nwokoro
30 September 2022   |   9:09 pm
Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo of a Lagos Special Offences Court, Ikeja, has exonerated former Managing Director of American International Insurance Company (AIICO) Capital Limited, a subsidiary of AIICO Plc., Lanre Fabunmi, of stealing and dishonestly converting N1.7 billion belonging to the firm. Others acquitted with him are: Onome Odometa, Olajumoke Akano and Olabode Ogunlere. The trial…

Gavel PHOTO: Getty images

Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo of a Lagos Special Offences Court, Ikeja, has exonerated former Managing Director of American International Insurance Company (AIICO) Capital Limited, a subsidiary of AIICO Plc., Lanre Fabunmi, of stealing and dishonestly converting N1.7 billion belonging to the firm.

Others acquitted with him are: Onome Odometa, Olajumoke Akano and Olabode Ogunlere. The trial judge absolved the defendants of all the 22 counts charges brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The defendants were arraigned on 22 amended counts, bordering on alleged conspiracy, stealing, dishonest conversion of funds for purpose of purchasing properties and converting funds belongs to the firm.

The alleged offence is contrary to and punishable under Section 287(8), 332(3) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2015.

The EFCC had alleged that the defendants had been appropriating some money to themselves illegally in the guise of sales commission.

Following their plea of not guilty to the charge, the prosecution team, led by Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), opened their case, called eight witnesses and tendered several documents as exhibits before they closed their case.

During pendency of the trial, prosecution witness narrated to the court the process of sales in the investment arm of AIICO.

The Prosecuting Witness 1 (PW1), Eguarekhide Longe, had told the court that he was working with AIICO Pension as well as being a Director of AIICO Capital Limited. He said the company sells insurance contracts, gets money, and invests it.

According to him, the insurance group deploys a broad agency network to sell insurance contracts. And for agency work done, the sales commission is paid to the agent.

Longe told the court that the board usually approves the sales commission and that the Managing Director cannot sign more than N5 million.

After the close of the prosecution’s case, the defendants, through their counsel, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika (SAN), and Dr. Muiz Banire (SAN), for first to third defendants respectively, filed a no case submission, which was vehemently argued before the court.

The defence counsel submitted and drew the court’s attention to the evidence of PW1 during cross examination, who agreed that the sales commission paid in 2020 to prove the exact amount allegedly stolen by the defendant to establish a prima facie case.

They also urged the court to consider evidence of PW6, Mr. Bukola Oluwadiya, who is a Director of the company, PW8, and other exhibits to show that the defendants never stole or converted money belonging to the company but were entitled to the sales commission.

They said none of the prosecution witnesses testified as to rule prohibiting payment of sales commission to staff. However, while ruling on their no case submission, Justice Taiwo held that the prosecution failed to prove the alleged offence against the defendants.

The judge said lack of concrete evidence creates doubt in the mind of the court. After the judge cited a plethora of decided cases, she held that the court does not act on speculations, let alone conjectures that are ambiguously speculative.

“It is obvious that the offence of conspiracy to commit an offence will necessarily precede, in point of time, the offence of the actual commission of the offence to which the conspiracy relates.

“The myriad of evidence to prove the payment of the sales commission also reveals that the defendants in any capacity did not approve the payment to themselves,” Justice Taiwo held on Monday, September 19, 2022.