Tom Awhana, the former Head of the Law Office of Mogbeyi Sagay, SAN, and Co., was on Friday docked at an Ikeja Special Offences Court for allegedly stealing N188.7million from the chambers.
Sagay, a late Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, was until his death in 2012, the Principal of his chambers.
The News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, reports that Awhana was arraigned alongside Paul Okoro, a former lawyer in the law firm by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Okoro was also accused by the EFCC of stealing N3.6million from the firm.
Awhana and Okoro pleaded not guilty to a joint- charge of conspiracy to steal.
Okoro denied a charge of stealing while Awhana plead not guilty to a 16-count charge of stealing.
According to the EFCC, Awhana was the Head of Chambers of the law firm of Mogbeyi Sagay and Co., from 2010 to 2018.
He and three administrators of the late SAN’s estate were the signatories to the law firm’s Zenith Bank Account.
It was allegedly mandated that three persons out of the four administrators could withdraw money with the cheque booklet of the Zenith Bank account in Awhana’s possession.
The prosecution said that the staff of the firm did not know that other administrators and Awhana had opened other secret bank accounts in the name of the chambers in other banks.
They were at: FCMB, Union Bank and Heritage Bank Plc., respectively.
The anti-graft agency alleged that first defendant, Awhana, had diverted drawn cheques into those secret accounts.
It added that he was also alleged to have stolen the sum of N188.7mi belonging to Mogbeyi Sagay, SAN, and Co., from 2012 to 2017.
The prosecution also alleged that the second defendant, Okoro, had stolen N3.6m belonging to the law firm from Oct. 14, 2012 to June 28, 2013.
According to the EFCC, the offences contravene Sections 287 and 409 of the Criminal Law of Lagos state, 2015.
Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, the lead prosecuting counsel for the anti-graft agency, requested for a trial date after the plea by the defendants.
Oyedepo also advised the court to impose stiff bail conditions on the lawyers adding, “I have discussed with my learned friends, I will leave it to My Lordship to impose bail conditions that will make the defendants available in court throughout this trial”.
Ms Oluwaseun Olusiyi, the defence counsel to Awhana, through a bail application dated May 17 asked the court to grant him bail in self recognisance stressing, “The first defendant is a legal practitioner of high repute and negotiations toward an amicable resolution are underway with the complainant. He was the Head of Chambers of the firm”.
Mr K. U Ani, the counsel to Okoro who is the second defendant in his bail application dated May 17, also asked the court to grant Okoro bail on self recognizance adding, “The second defendant has fractured his legs and is depending on medical treatment. I ask that you grant him bail on self recognizance, My Lord”.
NAN reports that Justice Mojisola Dada in a short ruling noted that settlement talks were ongoing between the complainant and the defendants.
She ordered that as a bail condition, Awhana and Okoro should submit their international passports to the court stressing, “The defendants shall, however, submit their international passports pending the determination of this suit. They shall be remanded in prison custody till the perfection of their bail condition. This case is adjourned until June 4 for trial”.