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£2.6bn Fraud: You Have a Case to Answer –Court Tells Petro Union Directors

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A Lagos Federal High Court, has dismissed a No-Case-Submission application filed by three Directors of an oil firm, Petro Union Oil and Gas Limited, who are currently standing trial over an alleged £2.6 billion fraud.

The trial judge, Justice Mohammed Liman, while delivering ruling on the application on Wednesday virtually, held that the Federal Government had made out a prima facie case against the company and its directors, which requires them to enter a defence.

Justice Liman, however, ruled that the company’s Financial Consultant, Abayomi Kukoyi, has no case to answer, as his involvement in the series of incidents leading to the alleged crime was in a professional capacity.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is prosecuting the defendants before the court on allegations of conspiracy, obtaining money by false pretences, attempt to steal and forgery.

The company’s directors on trial are Prince Kingsley Okpala, Prince Chidi Okpalaeze and Prince Emmanuel Okpalaeze.

The anti-graft agency had claimed that the defendants fraudulently procured a cheque from a foreign bank for £2. 556 billion under the pretext that it was meant to construct three petrochemical refinery complexes in Nigeria.

They were also alleged to have, sometime in April 2007, forged a statement of account in the name of Goldmatic Limited, which was used to obtain the sum of £2,159,221,313.54 billion.

The EFCC had also maintained that the offences are contrary to and punishable under sections 1(2), 1(2)(a) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Law of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990.

The anti-graft agency also insisted that the offences are contrary to and punishable under sections 509, 467(2)(I) and 468 of the Criminal Code Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

They all pleaded not guilty to the charge.

While challenging the No-Case-Submission application, the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), had maintained that the prosecution had, through its witnesses, established a prima facie case of fraud against the defendants.

The anti-graft agency’s lawyer argued that all investigations by Union Bank, Central Bank, Bankers’ Committee and the EFCC confirmed that the defendants were engaged in clearly fraudulent activities.

He stated, “We have proved the ingredients of those offences beyond any reasonable doubt, and each defendant should be invited to present their defence to the Charge if they have any.

“The defendants knew the truth but are insisting that the Federal Government should pay them £2.1 billion. It is our common inheritance that they want to take away. This is a clear case of fraud, and no person with heaven in mind should pursue this case or assist anyone to do so.

The criminal trial of Petro Union and its directors is now expected to be transferred to another Judge of the Federal High Court as Justice Liman has been elevated to the Court of Appeal.

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