N179.8m fraud: Court refuses to strike out suit against Ex-Ecobank manager

Ecobank-a1_430_250_c1A Lagos High Court judge, Justice Christopher Balogun, on Monday rejected an application praying the court to strike out a criminal suit filed against former Customer Service Manager, Tosin Lawal and her husband, Michael Lawal.

The accused persons are facing eleven-count charges bordering on conspiracy and theft filed against them by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) but they pleaded not guilty to all the counts.

According to the charge sheet, the accused persons allegedly conspired to defraud Ecobank Nig. Plc. of N179.8million being sales from fraudulent sales of foreign currency.

At the resumed hearing of the matter, the defence counsel, Mathew Bukaa, in an oral application urged the court to strike out the suit since the prosecution failed to assembly their witnesses in court.

Bukaa prayed the court to invoke Section 232 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State arguing that the prosecution was aware that trial would commence but failed to come to court with witnesses.

But, in his ruling, the trial judge, Justice Balogun held that since it was the first time the matter would come up for hearing, he was not inclined to strike the suit.

The judge, however, warned that he would no longer grant such indulgence saying, “this is a criminal matter and this court is not in the habit of waiting for prosecution”.

He thereafter adjourned the case to September 26 for hearing.

The defendants were formerly arraigned before Justice Candide Johnson of Igbosere High Court on Jan 24, 2012 who granted the second defendant, Michael Lawal bail in the sum of N5million before the case was transferred to the present court.

EFCC said the offences contravened Sections 390 and 516 of the Criminal Code, Laws of Lagos State, 2003.

EFCC had told the court that the bail application of the second defendant will be left unopposed but urged the court not to grant the first defendant bail on the condition that she is flight risk.

But the defence lawyer in his reply told the court that the case was a mere stealing offence adding that his clients would not run if granted bail and that they should not be seen as flight risk by the court.

Justice Balogun had in his ruling ordered that the second defendant continue his bail as granted by Justice Candide Johnson but with an addition that he submit his international passport to the deputy registrar of Lagos within seven days.

He also granted the first defendant bail in the sum of N12million with two sureties in like sum.

The court added that the second defendant must also submit his international passport to the deputy registrar.