EFCC Arraigns Former Punch Director, Ishekwene, Others for Alleged N350m Fraud

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Akinwale Akintunde

Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) Wednesday arraigned former Executive Director of the Punch Newspaper, Azubike Ishekwene, and Olalekan Abdul before an Ikeja Special Offences Court over fraud allegations.

Azubuike was charged alongside Abdul, Adeyinka Adewale (absent) and Morakinyo Bolanle (now at large).

The duo were arraigned before Justice Mojisola Dada on an amended 15-count charge, bordering on forgery, conspiracy to forge, using false documents, making documents without authority and obtaining money by false pretence.

Muiz Banire (SAN) appeared for Abdul, 1st defendant, while Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika (SAN) appeared for Ishekwene, 2nd defendant and third defendant, Adewale. The EFCC prosecutor, Muhammad Idris, told the court that the defendants used a false document titled: “Board Resolution of Cleanserve Integrated Energy Solution Limited” dated 27th day of September, 2010 to open an account with Keystone Bank Plc formerly known has Bank PHB as genuine.

The prosecutor alleged that the defendants with intent to defraud and obtain credit facility for Cleanserve Integrated Energy Solution in the sum of N350,000,000.00 by false pretence from Wema Bank by falsely representing to them that the “Board Resolution of Cleanserve Integrated Energy Solution” dated 14th December, 2010 as genuine which representations they knew to be false.

The defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge preferred against them by the EFCC.

Idris told the court in view of the plea of the defendants that they be remanded in prison custody, drawing the attention of the court to absence of Adewale said to be at large.

He urged the court to issue warrant of arrest against him and take the plea of the others.

However, Olumide-Fusika, the defence counsel to Abdul and Adewale requested that Abdul be granted bail by the court.

He also clarified that the third defendant was not on the run but was rather out of the country.

“The 1st defendant has been on administrative bail of the EFCC since 2018 and anytime he was invited to their office he never failed to honour their invitation.

“The interest at this stage is to ensure that the defendant comes for trial. We plead that he should drop his international passport, and if we can have a trial date for Friday, we will bring him to court. I undertake to also bring Adewale to court,” he said.

Banire, in his submission, asked the court to grant his client bail because the correctional facilities are congested.

“The maximum capacity of the prison is 800 as at today is 3,000,” Banire said.

Justice Dada granted their requests and granted bail to the defendants.

In granting the bail request, personal plea of the defence counsel on their attendance in court and the forfeiture of their international passports temporary bail were granted therein.

The case was adjourned to January 31 for continuation of trial.