Fraud: Innoson’s Absence in Court Stalls Arraignment on Fraud Charge

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The scheduled arraignment of Innocent Chukwuma, Chairman , Innoson Motors Nigeria Limited, on charges bordering on fraud was stalled on Wednesday, January 17, 2018 following his absence in court.
Chukwuma was to be arraigned alongside his company and one Charles Chukwuma on a 4-count charge of conspiracy, obtaining by false pretence and forgery before Justice Mojisola Dada of the Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The defendants allegedly committed the offence between 2009 and July 2011 in Lagos. They were said to have conspired to obtain by false pretence containers of motorcycle spare parts and raw materials, which were property of Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) from Mitsui OSK Lines Limited, Apapa, Lagos.
They also allegedly induced staff of Mitsui OSK and Maersk Line to deliver to them, via their clearing agents , the goods that were imported from China in the name of GTB by falsely pretending that they were authorised by the bank to clear the goods.
The defendants were also said to have forged a bill of lading numbered 598286020 of Maersk Line Limited and 11007950841 of Mutsui O.S.K Lines by knowingly putting a false GTB stamp and signature of the bank staff.
This, investigation revealed, was done so that the forged documents could be used or acted upon as genuine to the prejudice of any person within Lagos or elsewhere.
The offence contravenes Sections 1(1)(b), 1(3), and 8(a) of the Advanced Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act 2016 and Sections 309(9), 388, 465 and 467(1)(j) of the Criminal Code of Lagos State 2003
When the matter was called, counsel to the defendants, U. Onwukwe, told court that he had filed an application dated January 15, 2018 challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the case.
“My client has not been served. We got to know of this matter on social media.
“The EFCC arrested them and they know where they can serve them. They granted the second defendant (Innocent Chukwuma) bail on self-recognizance and told him to come to the EFCC office on February 20. But in December, they went ahead to file these charges.
“Charles Chukwuma, who is the third defendant in the charge, was not even arrested by the EFCC”,Onwukwe argued.
However, the prosecuting counsel, Zainab Ettu, told the court that the defendants had been evading service.
“My Lord, the most important thing is for us to proceed to trial. The defendants are on administrative bail. As diligent citizens of this country , when they were aware of the charges, they are to come to the EFCC office with their counsel and receive a copy of the charge. The lawyer should make an undertaking that his clients will be present in court
“We will be asking for the shortest possible date, since they are evading service, so that we can serve them in the courtroom.”
A mild drama however ensued when Justice Dada asked the EFCC counsel to pass an advanced copy of the charge to Onwukwe as a form of service.
Onwukwe objected to be served, stating that he could not accept the advanced copy of the charge as a form of service to the defendants.
The judge, therefore, ordered EFCC counsel to “put the copy of the charge on the table, if he refuses to accept it.”
Consequently, Justice Dada adjourned till February 9, 2018 for possible arraignment.

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Hamilton Nwosa

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