$156,711 Fraud: EFCC Tenders Documents against Macmillan Publishers’ Co-defendant

Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday presented its first prosecution witness, PW1, Ahmed Suleiman, an investigative officer with the EFCC, against one Fasasi Bola, who is being prosecuted alongside Macmillan Nigeria Publishers Limited for an alleged $156,711.87 fraud  before Justice Mojisola Dada of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos.

A statement by EFCC said the suspects were arraigned on June 20, 2022, on an amended six-count charge bordering on obtaining goods by false pretence.

One of the amended counts reads: “Macmillan Nigeria Publishers, Prof. Adesanya Iyiola Adelekan (now at large) and Fasasi Bola, sometime in 2018, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, conspired amongst yourselves to obtain goods by false pretence, property of BHS Book Printing SDN BHD of Selangor Malaysia.”

Another count reads: “Macmillan Nigeria Publishers, Prof. Adesanya Iyiola Adelekan (now at large) and Fasasi Bola, sometime in 2018, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, obtained books for sale worth $156,711.87 by false pretence from BHS Book Printing SDN BHD of Selangor Malaysia under the pretence that you would sell the books and remit the money from the sales within two weeks of receiving the Bill of Lading, which pretence you knew or ought to know is false.”

Fasasi Bola pleaded “not guilty” to the charges. At yesterday’s sitting, the PW1, Suleiman, who was led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, Ayanfeoluwa Ogunsina, narrated how the company based in Malaysia had petitioned the EFCC through its lawyers in Nigeria.

He told the court that sometime in 2018, the EFCC received a petition from BHS Book Printing SDN BHD of Selangor Malaysia, through the High Refuge Attorney based in Nigeria, alleging that Macmillan Nigeria Publishers reneged on its promise to pay the sum of $833,561.71 being money for books it supplied from Malaysia for the use of Nigerian students.

He said: “The said books were supplied to Macmillan Publishers in four weigh bills. The first was with invoice number 1270  dated 1-4-2018; the second was with invoice number 1278 dated 24-5-2018; the third with invoice number 127-1 was dated 24-5-2018, while the fourth with invoice number 1278-2 was dated 6-8-2018.

“The value for all the invoices of the books supplied was $833,561.71.”

He further told the court that investigation into the allegation revealed that the said consignments were duly received and were cleared by the Nigeria Customs Service(NCS)  through the Tincan Island, Lagos.

“Macmillan Publishers also acknowledged receiving the books with an agreement that after delivery within 90 days, payment would be made to BHS foreign company based in Malaysia through their correspondent bank, Zenith Bank here in Nigeria,” he said.

In his further testimony, he said: “Unfortunately, Macmillan Publishers who are suppliers of books to the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, and to other private individuals, supplied the said books to UBEC through their state counterparts and payments were made by UBEC to Macmillan through its account in Zenith Bank, with the understanding that Zenith Bank will remit the said funds to the BHS correspondent bank in Malaysia.”

According to him, the bank did not remit the money as expected because Macmillan was indebted to it, and so used the money to off-set the debt.

“All efforts by Macmillan to pay back proved abortive. No kobo was left.  And afterwards, Macmillan was suspended from supplying books to UBEC,” he added.

He testified further that in the course of the investigation, letters were written to the Nigeria Customs Service, the Attorney of the foreign publishers, the Corporate Affairs Commission, the UBEC and the bank.

He also identified the responses received, including the statements made by Fasasi, as Macmillan’s Executive Director, Finance, and statements made by Prof. Adelekan, as Managing Director of Macmillan.

The documents were tendered in evidence by the prosecution and admitted in evidence as exhibits P1 to P6, as there was no objection raised by the defence.

The statement said the case was adjourned till November 24, 2022, for continuation of trial.

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