Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Court orders airline, four airport officials to open defence in alleged $1.63m theft

A Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, has issued a directive that Emirates Airline, alongside four airport officials should open their defence on June 21 in the $1.63 million theft charge instituted against them by the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN).
Trial judge, Mohammed Idris, arrived at the decision after throwing out the no-case submission filed by Emirates Airline and the said airport officials. Aside Emirates, the affected airport officials are; Abayomi Abiola, Isiaka Adedeji, Awonubi Abayomi and George Ikpekhia.

Equally joined as defendants in the charge included two companies: Pathfinder International Ltd., and Nigeria Aviation Handling Company Plc.The defendants were in 2009 sued by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Justice Minister over allegation of theft to the tune of $1.63m owned by a businessman, Prince Ikem Orji.
According to the eleven counts charge which touches on conspiracy, theft and money laundering, and designated FHC/L/386c/09, the FGN raised an allegation that the defendants conspired among themselves to swindle Orji of his $1.63m under the false pretext that they would help him to keep the money and deliver same to him at Guangzhou, China.
The charge further revealed that the said sum had been kept in one of the four bags, tagged, EK 428682, EK428683, E650165 and EK650161, which Orji kept with the defendants on the promise that they would help him to keep the bags intact for onward delivery.
The defendants were said to have carried out the act on December 19, 2007 at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos.Amongst other things, the airport officials were dragged before Justice Idris and sued over allegation of money laundering as a result of their “failure to report an international transfer of the sum of $1.63m owned by Prince Orji.”
This according to the charge is above $10,000 required to be reported to the Central Bank of Nigeria by virtue of Section 2 (1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.
It was also the contention of the FGN, that the defendants acted contrary to Section 390(9) of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, with an addition that they were liable to be punished under Section 422 of the same Act.
The defendants pleaded not guilty, when they were docked about eight years ago. Consequently, the FGN opened its case and called three witnesses. It also tendered a number of exhibits.
When the prosecution concluded its case on October 18, 2016, and shortly after the defendants were called upon to open their defence, they initiated a no case submission.
The defendants particularly maintained that the prosecution failed to establish a prima facie case against them to now occasion them to put up any defence.

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