Court dismisses N272.5 million fraud charge against oil marketer
A Lagos High Court, Ikeja, has dismissed a two count-charge of stealing and fraud, filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), against an Independent Oil Marketer, Mr. Anthony Adejugbe and his company, Tonique Oil Services Limited.
In dismissing the charge, the trial judge, Justice Lateefat Okunnu, held that the prosecution did not bring up substantial evidence to prove its case against the defendants.
The EFCC had on November 13, 2012, arraigned Adejugbe and his company before Justice Okunnu in charges marked ID/198C/2012.
The commission had in the charge alleged that the defendants fraudulently obtained the sum of N272, 500 million, from a company, Watergate Petroleum and Gas Limited under false pretence of supplying the company five million litres of petroleum.
However, during the pendency of the matter, EFCC called five witnesses and tendered some documents as exhibits, while Adejugbe and Tonique Oil Services Limited equally called five witnesses and also tendered several documents.
The defendants denied the charges however. Justice Okunnu, in dismissing the charge, said: “There is, therefore, reasonable doubt regarding the case of 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.”
Reviewing the facts of the case as presented by both parties before the court, Justice Okunnu said 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.
Her words: “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 ‘mens 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.”
Justice Okunnu further held that she 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.
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