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N855m Fraud: EFCC Asks Court To Declare Pardon Granted Convicted Indian, Others Illegal

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has asked the Court of Appeal, sitting in Lagos, to declare the purported pardon granted to an Indian businessman, Ashok Israni and three others, by the Lagos State government as illegal, unconstitutional, null and void.

Addressing a special panel of the appellate court on Thursday, during the hearing of the appeal filed by Israni, and two officials of Keystone Bank, Anayo Nwosu and Olajide Oshodi, EFCC lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) submitted that there are plethora of legal authorities that pardon cannot be granted to convicts whose rights of appeal have not been exhausted.

Members of the Special Panel are: Justice Joseph Shagbaor Ikyegh (Presiding), Justice Ebiowei Tobi, and
Justice B. I. Gafai.

Justice Kudirat Jose of the Lagos State High Court sitting in Igbosere, had on December 9, 2019, convicted Israni, and two officials of Keystone Bank, Anayo Nwosu and Olajide Oshodi, on an amended 15-count charge bordering on conspiracy and obtaining by false pretence to the tune of N855 million.

The Judge had sentenced them to five years imprisonment each for stealing.

The court also convicted NULEC Industries Limited belonging to Israni and Keystone Bank Limited, in her judgment.

Besides, the companies were also ordered to pay a fine of N20 million to the Federal Government on counts 1, 10 and 13, while the convicts were ordered to restitute the sum of N395 million to the victim of the fraud.

Dissatisfied, Israni and others in their separate appeals challenged the judgement of the lower court and urged the appellate court to allow the appeals, and set aside the judgement of the lower court.

However, while the appeals were still pending, and just four months after their conviction, the Appellants were released from prison by officials of the Kirikiri Centre of the Nigerian Correctional Services (NCoS), allegedly on the directive of the Lagos State Government, despite the pendency of their appeals before the upper court.

At the hearing of the Appeal today, EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), adopted his brief of argument dated April 27, 2023, and submitted that there are several legal authorities to the effect that pardon cannot be granted to convicts whose rights of appeal have not been exhausted.

He urged the court to declare the purported pardon ‘illegal’ since the appellants’ appeals had been filed and entered since February 13, 2020, though, it could not be heard due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forestalled judicial activities.

The EFCC further claimed that immediately after one of the appellants, Anayo Nwosu was released, he allegedly made so many publications on many social media platforms stating that he was wrongly convicted, jailed and maltreated because of the whims and caprices of the Nominal Complainant.

He urged the court to dismiss the appeal, and uphold the judgement of the lower court.

Earlier, Counsel to the Appeallants, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) and Mr. Biodun Owonikoko (SAN) adopted their briefs of arguments and urged the court to allow the Appeal, set aside the judgement of the lower court and acquit all the Appellants of all the charges filed against them.

In his submissions, Chief Olanipekun (SAN) informed the court that the Appellants have filed an affidavit of facts which contained the instrument of the pardon granted to them by the Lagos State government, stating that it was the State that charged them to court, and it was the State that granted them bail due to upsurge in COVID-19.

After hearing arguments from parties, Justice Ikyegh reserved the appeal for Judgement.

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