Court Adjourns Trial Of Socialite, Princess Toyin Akolade Till March 11
Justice Peter Lifu of the Federal High Court, Lagos, today adjourned till March 11 further hearing in the $32 million fraud charge filed by the Attorney General office against a Lagos socialite, Princess Toyin AKolade and 10 others.
Justice Lifu adjourned the matter after both the prosecution and defence counsel have adopted their respective written addresses on whether or not to hear the charge first or the objection to the charge filed by the defendant’s lawyer.
It would be recalled that on the last adjourned date, Justice Peter Lifu had asked counsel to both parties to address him on the contending issue of Section 396 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA and fixed today for the adoption of the written addresses.
At the resume hearing of the matter today, after counsel had informed the court that they have filed their respective address on the contending issue as directed by the court, were given to go-ahead to adopt same and Justice Lifu consequently adjourned the matter till March 11 for ruling.
Justice Lifu had on December 3, last year raised the issue of Section 396 of ACJA and asked the counsel to addresses him on it when the defendant brought an application to quash the charge against her without first taking her plea before the court
The office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) had dragged 11 defendants before the court on charges bordering on Conspiracy,obtaining by false pretence and fraud of $32 million USD.
Other defendants in the charge are; four India Nationals, Prem Garg, Devashish Garg, Bhagwan Simgh Rawat and Mukul Tyagi and two Britons, Marcus Wade and Andrew Fairie, said to be at large.
Also, four companies: Metal Africa Steel Products Limited, Wilben Trade Limited, Fisolak Global Resources Limited and Kannu Aditya India Limited, were also charged before the court on the alleged offences.
However, lawyer to Princess Akolade, Mr Dele Adesina SAN filed a motion before the court on asking the court quash the charge preferred, against the 7th and 10th Defendants/Applicants.
In the alternative, he seeks the court to strike out the names of the 7th and 10the defendants in the charge for the following reasons:
The Charge and the proof of evidence failed to disclose any prima facie case and/or link or connect the 7th and 10th Defendants/Applicants to the commission of the alleged offences charged.
The Police Investigation Report Issued by the Commissioner of Police, Police Special Fraud Unit (PSFU), Force Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department, Annex, Lagos which formed the basis of the Criminal Prosecution did not implicate the 7th and 10th Defendants/Applicants in any way or form.
The Police Investigation Report sufficiently cleared the 7th and 10th Defendants/Applicants from the commission of the alleged offences.
The 7th Defendant/Applicant is a clean, clear and responsible personality in the society and it will be unfair and unjust to drag her name and that of her Company (the 10th Defendant/Applicant) doing a lawful business into a criminal trial for offences they know nothing about.
The essence of this objection is to terminate the proceedings without this Honourable Court dissipating unnecessary energies to consider this unworthy and fruitless matter as it relates to the 7th and 10th Defendants/Applicants.
The justice of this case demands that the names of the 7th and 10th Defendants/Applicants be struck out from the charge.
The 7th and 10th Defendants/Applicants shall rely on the charge together with all other processes, Statements, Reports and documents filed by the prosecution in this case for the hearing of this application.
In a 24 paragraph affidavit deposed to by Abdul-Malik Abdul-Mutalib, a lawyer in Adesina’s law firm, the defendants have been doing clearing Business at the NPA for many years without any blemish or stain whatsoever.
“The Defendants/Applicants are Natural and Corporate Citizens doing honest, lawful and responsible clearing business with sustained credibility in Nigeria.
In this particular case, the defendants averred that they were never privy or parties to the loan application, negotiation and agreement as they were not the parties that applied for the facility granted by either the Access Bank or the FCMB, neither were they beneficiaries at any point in time of the said facilities.
He averred further that the defendants were contacted by the eighth defendant, Metal Africa Steel Products to clear their goods it imported.
The consignment bears the name of Metal Africa Steel Products Limited (the 8th Defendant) as the Consignee of the goods to be cleared, and by the ordinary course of business, the name of the consignee must be processed in the Pre-Arrival Reassessment Report (PAAR).
“Form C 16 titled “The Combined Certificate of Value and Origin” (CCVO), which is invoice number CF/96954 of 7th April, 2016 confirms the name of the 8th Defendant as the Consignee of the Steel Billets.
The consignment did not bear the Name of Access Bank Plc or any bank at all. The usual trade practice in clearing business at the Port Authority is that if a consignment is in the name of a Bank, no clearing agent or person has the right/power to clear such consignment without express order or authorization of such Bank as the consignee.
Since the documents were not in the name of the bank, there is no way the 7th and 10th Defendants could have known. Indeed there is no way any clearing agent would have known it belonged to a bank.
He therefore urged the court to grant the prayers saying that “the whole essence of the Administration of Criminal Justice System is to prosecute genuine suspects and or offenders and not to persecute the Innocent such as the 7th and 10th Defendants/Applicants.
“The purpose of justice would be defeated if the 7th and 10th Defendants/Applicants are compelled to stand trial in this case for offences that the 7th and 10th Defendants/Applicants know nothing about and for which indeed there are no links connecting the 7th and the 10th Defendants/Applicants to the commission of the alleged offences”.
At the last hearing of the suit on November 9, Justice Lifu had ordered the prosecutor, Dr. Pius Akutah, and Mr. Dele Belgore (SAN), counsel to the third, fourth and ninth defendant to address the court on Section 396(2) of ACJA 2015.
The court order was sequel to a similar application to strike out or quash the charge, brought by Mr. Belgore (SAN), but countered by the prosecutor.
Another counsel, Mr. Dada Awosika (SAN) who represented first, Second, fifth, sixth defendants, also brought similar applications.
Dr. Akutah, informed the court that the business of the day was the arraignment of the defendant, but this was made impossible, as Mr. Adesina notified the court about the application he filed and served the other parties and the court.