Bank Chiefs Risk Bench Warrant Arrest over Alleged Fraud Case

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Sunday Okobi
The Chairman of Citi Bank (former Nigeria International Bank Limited),  C.S. Sankey, and its former Managing Director, Emeka Emuwa, (now Managing Director of Union Bank Plc), risk being slammed with bench warrant by a Federal High Court in Lagos if they fail to appear before the court on April 14.

The bank chiefs are accused of allegedly defrauding an Onitsha-based business mogul and Chairman of Micmerah Group of Companies, Chief Michael Emerah, of N390 million, under the pretense of assisting him to import some Volvo brand of luxurious buses and vehicle spare parts.

 But they had repeatedly been absent in the court several times their case was called, thereby prompting the presiding judge, Justice Ibrahim Buba, at the last court sitting in Lagos in March to order that the summons be served on the defendant by substituted means – pasting the order in their offices and residence to ensure they appear in court.
Failure to serve the court process on Sankey, Emuwa, alongside the Citi Bank’s Legal Adviser/Company Secretary, Mrs. Olusola Fagbure and 14 others, and their non-appearance in court had stalled several previous attempts by the federal government to arraign the key bank officers.

 Counsel for the prosecution, Mr. Gordy Uche (SAN), had told the trial judge that they could not effect service of the summons on Sankey, Emuwa and 14 other co-defendants in the case, and complained that the defendants were allegedly, evading service of the court process.
Sources pointed out that Citibank Nigeria, had been reaching out to key officers both in the country and abroad to permanently stop the case.

According sources, the said secretary has been withholding the case file, unknown to the Attorney-General of the Federation,  and planning to advise the AGF against prosecuting the case.

Meanwhile, it was learnt that the renewed legal exercise over the Chief Michael Emerah/Citi Bank alleged fraud case, is sequel to the issuance of a writ of summon and its service on the accused persons following an approval by President Muhammadu Buhari for the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami SAN to relist the case and begin a fresh charge against them for allegedly defrauding Chief Emerah in 2001 under the pretense of assisting him to import luxurious buses and new motor spare parts.

It was gathered that the federal government’s action is believed to be as a result of the strong-worded petition from the complainant, Emerah, to the president, in which he was said to have allegedly protested bitterly that the case was discontinued in a mistrust manner.

In the  writ of summon, the AGF was also said to have ordered the restoration of the Attorney-General’s fiat earlier granted to the prosecution counsel, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), to prosecute the case on behalf of the federal government but which was dropped by the former AGF, Mohammed Adoke when he discontinued the case in 2011.

Investigation revealed that Adoke who was the immediate past AGF, had entered a notice of discontinuance of the case in May 2011, and subsequently withdrew the fiat granted to the prosecution counsel, Chris Uche (SAN).

According to information from the office of the Deputy Director of Prosecution of the Federation (DDPF), in the Federal Ministry of Justice, M. Abdullahi, Buhari’s order to re-open the case was to ensure justice as symbolised in his administration’s change mantra as well as his determination to revisit all high profile fraudulent cases, aimed at stamping out corruption within the system in all facets of the nation’s economy.

In the conveyance letter, dated August 10, 2015, and captioned: ‘Re: Petition against the fraudulent withdrawal of criminal charge No FHC/CR/122/08 between Nigeria versus Nigeria International Bank Ltd (Citi Bank) and 16 others,’ the DDPF quoted a strongly worded petition written to Buhari by the complainant, Emerah, as saying that it was disturbing that the former AGF, Adoke, later turned round to enter a notice of discontinuance and at the same time withdrew the AGF’s fiat already granted to the prosecution counsel, Uche.

Emerah’s complaint however, prompted an advice from the DDPF to order the re-opening of the case in the interest of justice, since the case at hand is a contentious one, going by the petitions and counter-petitions in the file, and considering that since the office of the present AGF is convinced that there is sufficient evidence to prosecute the suspects, the proper venue to determine the interests of the parties should be the court and not chambers of the AGF, so that no party leaves with a feeling that his right was wished away by the Ministry of Justice.