Court discharges, acquits businessmen of alleged N1.8b fraud charge
An Ikeja Special Offences Court, Lagos, yesterday discharged and acquitted two businessmen, Ogbor Eliot and Kelvin Chris, of a N1.8 billion fraud allegation brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo cleared Ogbor and Chris of the entire five-count charge bordering on conspiracy, obtaining money under false pretence, conspiracy and forgery, after a nearly four-year trial.
The judge held that the EFCC failed to establish any element of criminality against the defendants, adding that the transaction, which led to the charge, was of a civil nature that could have been resolved by the complainant and the defendants.
The defendants were arraigned by the EFCC’s Lagos Zonal Command on October 22, 2018, alongside Danium Energy Services Limited, which the prosecution alleged was used to deceive Sterling Bank Plc to lend them money to finance a Local Purchase Order (LPO) for 20,000 Metric Tonnes of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) for supply to Total Nigeria Limited.
Each defendant pleaded “not guilty,” following which trial commenced.
On August 5, 2022, the court adjourned till yesterday for judgment.
At the resumption of proceedings, the court upheld Ogbor and Chris’ contention that the charge should not have been brought in the first place.
Justice Taiwo held: “I have examined the evidence of the prosecution as well as that of the defence. It is clear to me that the issue here is civil in nature, which could have been resolved in a civil matter. There is no element of criminality in a loan duly guaranteed by a tank farm in Akwa Ibom State owned by first defendant.
“It is imperative to state that a debt recovery should not always be criminalised, going by the evidence of Prosecution Witness (PW) 1, who stated that Sterling Bank carried out their due diligence before a loan of N1.8 billion to finance LPO was granted.
“The witness stated that the bank visited the facility used to secure the loan which would have been resorted to by the time the defendant defaulted.
“I find and hold that the prosecution have failed to establish any element of criminality against the defendants here. Accordingly, they are hereby discharged and acquitted.”