*Orders Lagos Chief Judge to assign trial to a judge promptly
By Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The Supreme Court has ordered a former Managing Director of Finbank Plc (now defunct), Okey Nwosu, and three Executive Directors of the bank – Dayo Famoroti, Agnes U. Ebubedike and Danjuma Ocholi – to go and face trial at the Lagos High Court for stealing.
The order followed the refusal of the apex court to quash the charge of stealing brought against them by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The Supreme Court, in a judgment on Friday, upheld the appeal by the EFCC and set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal, Lagos division, which earlier quashed the charge on the grounds that it amounted to an abuse of court process.
The court, in a unanimous judgment by a seven-man panel, faulted the reasoning of the Court of Appeal in relation to its finding that the decision by the EFCC to charge the four bankers at the Lagos High Court for stealing while it simultaneously maintained a charge of money laundering against them on related facts would expose them to double jeopardy.
The court directed the bankers (who are respondents in the appeals) to submit themselves for trial. It remitted the case to the Lagos State Chief Judge for expeditious trial.
In the lead judgment on the appeal no. SC/74/2014, which was used to decide two other appeals (marked: SC/73/2014 and SC/75/2014) on similar issues, Justice Musa Datijo Muhammad held that it was unreasonable to suggest that the prosecution of the respondents by the appellant at the trial court was aimed at either irritating or annoying them or was a bid by the prosecution to stall the effective and efficient administration of justice.
Based on a petition by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), accusing the bankers of “financial misappropriation and false misrepresentation of financial records” during their tenure on the management of Finbank Plc, EFCC investigated the case and consequently filed charges of stealing against them.
The EFCC found among others, that the respondents had allegedly incorporated seven pseudo companies and at various occasions, transferred funds from Finbamk to the fake companies through two separate broker companies.
It also found that funds of the bank in excess of N20billion had been transferred through Springboard Trust and Investment Limited ostensibly as loans to the seven fake companies even though the companies neither maintained any accounts with the bank nor applied for any such loans.
The commission further discovered that over N18b had illegally been transferred to another stock broking company, Integrated Trust Investment Company Limited, which sum was utilized by the company to acquire several units of shares of Finbank Plc in the names of the seven pseudo companies incorporated by the respondents.
MORE TO FOLLOW