A Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja, on Wednesday threw out a two-count charge of stealing and fraud, instituted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), against an Independent Oil Marketer, Mr. Anthony Adejugbe, and his company, Tonique Oil Services Limited.
The court also acquitted and discharged the oil marketer and his company of the two charges levelled against them by the EFCC.
In dismissing the charge, the trial judge, Justice Lateefat Okunnu held that the prosecution did not bring up substantial evidence to prove its case against the defendants.
It would be recalled that the EFCC had on November 13, 2012, arraigned Adejugbe and his company before Justice Lateefat Okunnu of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja via charge sheet marked ID/198C/2012.
The commission had in the charge alleged that the defendants, fraudulently obtained the sum of N272,500 million, from a company, Watergate Petroleum and Gas Limited, under false pretence of supplying the company five million litres of petroleum.
However, during the pendency of the matter, EFCC called five witnesses and tendered some documents as exhibits, while Adejugbe and Tonique Oil Services Limited equally called five witnesses and also tendered several documents.
In particular, Adejugbe and his company denied the charges levelled against them by the EFCC.
In dismissing the charge against Adejugbe and his company, Tonique Oil Services Limited, Justice Okunnu, said: “there is, therefore, reasonable doubt regarding the case of prosecution that the payment in question was intended by the defendants for use in paying off part of the second defendant’s loan.
”In the event, and by reason of all the foregoing, it is my findings that this is neither a case of stealing, nor one of obtaining by false pretence”.
Reviewing the facts of the case as presented by both parties before the court, the presiding judge said the prosecution failed to bring strong evidence enough to show that there was such known fact or even, a whiff of rumour to back their case of alleged fraud against the defendants.
She said: “I had earlier explained that the missing link necessary for the prosecution to slot in as to prove that charge was for them to establish the requisite ‘men’s rea’ on the part of the defendants.
”Given the inability of the prosecution to prove the requisite standard, its assertion that the money the defendants paid to Sterling Bank Plc was for the purpose of settling the second defendant’s liability to the bank cannot be firmly established.”
Justice Okunnu further held that she did not see or find anything that suggests, talk less of prove, that the defendants intended to use the money as a pledge or some other form of security.
”That is not the case before the court. The case, rather, is that they intended to use it to pay off a debt.”
“In the event, and by the reasons of the foregoing, it is my finding that it is neither a case of stealing nor one of obtaining by false pretence.
“The evidence adduced by the prosecution in legal proof of the ‘mens rea’ for the offences charged (the intention behind the actions of the defendants) was not sufficient, so the little that exists from the prosecution came to be eroded by what the defendants have said, the prosecution, as a result, was unable to sustain its case. And so, without further ado, I hereby dismiss the case against both defendants.
“Each of them, therefore, stand acquitted and discharged on each of the two-count charge,” Justice Okunnu declared.
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A Report Of The Judgement Of The 16 Divisions Of The Court Of Appeal In Nigeria