29th April, 2019
A Lagos State High Court has discharged and acquitted a couple, Mr. and Mrs Innocent Eloka, alleged to have misappropriated about N285 million by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), seven years ago.
Former chairman of Clarion Bonded Terminal Limited, Mr. Jude lgbanugo, had petitioned the EFCC alleging that the couple, who are part owners of the firm, defrauded it but the court declared them innocent of all the charges.
The trial judge, Adeniyi Onigbanjo while delivering judgment held that the couple is not culpable of any fraudulent allegations leveled against them by the prosecution.
The judge who took over the case from Justice Habeeb Abiru who had been elevated to the appellate court, discharged and acquitted the couple who had consistently proved ownership of the bonded terminal known as Clarion Off-Dock Terminal.
lgbanugo had alleged that the couple fraudulently misappropriated the sum of N285 million as directors while working in the company between March 2011 and April 2011, while acting as Managing Director, Chief Operating Officer and General Manager of the company, respectively.
The trial judge in his judgment held that the prosecution failed to proof that the petitioners had any such monies capable of being stolen or to show that any such fund was traceable to the defendants in any way.
On the three-count charge of conspiracy and stealing filed against the couple, the court ruled that to prove a case of stealing, three key elements must be established. They are the ownership of the thing stolen, the act of taking or diverting the property and the fraudulent intent.
He concluded that the prosecution failed to establish its case and prove the critical element of fraudulent intent and therefore discharged and acquitted them.
The Court reasoned that the 1st and 2nd defendants were Directors of Clarion Bonded Terminal Limited and thus had the authority to expend the company’s money for the business of the company.
He further said that the prosecution failed to show that the money that they spent were for fraudulent purposes or purposes other than the fulfilment of the objects of the company.
However, counsel to the defendant (couple), Mr. Okanga Okanga had asked the court to make two consequential orders, to wit: an order discharging the freezing order made against the defendants’ bank accounts since the commencement of the proceedings;
An order compelling the payment of financial compensation to the defendants by the petitioners in reliance on section 286 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Laws of Lagos State 2011 (ACJL).
The EFCC opposed the second prayer made by the defendants’ counsel but claimed not to be aware of the accounts purportedly frozen.
Justice Onigbanjo however declined the prayers asked the defendant’s counsel to file the necessary applications.