The Office of the Attorney-General (A-G) of Lagos State has taken over the prosecution of Mr Herbert Wigwe, the Group Managing Director of Access Bank Plc, and eight others charged with $6.3 million fraud before an Ikeja High Court.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Chief State Counsel, Mr Pius Akuta, informed the court on Monday that the A-G’s office would take over prosecution of the case from the Police Special Fraud Unit (SFU).
“We urge your lordship to allow the Office of the Attorney-General of Lagos State to take over this matter,” Akuta prayed.
Reacting, defence counsel – Messrs Obafolahan Ojibara, Felix Agbonrofo and Michael Ngidi, said that they would seek the direction of the court regarding the request.
Granting the request of the prosecution counsel, Justice Hakeem Oshodi acknowledged receiving a letter dated July 4 which contained Akuta’s request.
“Though there is no attorney-general currently sitting in office, I cannot say you should not take over the prosecution of this case because constitutionally, you can take over.
“The Office of the Attorney-General is hereby permitted to take over this case,” Oshodi ruled.
Oshodi also adjourned the case until Sept. 16 for hearing of the preliminary objection.
The adjournment followed a prayer by Akuta to enable him to “seek legal opinions on the case”.
NAN reports that Wigwe was charged alongside Cast Oil & Gas Ltd., Seyi Sanni, Adekunle Adebayo, Access Bank Plc, Titi Osuntoki, Chinyere Bishop-Adigwe, Sunny Offiong and Augusta Energy Nig Ltd.
They were scheduled for arraignment on May 2 on a four-count charge of conspiracy to defraud, conspiracy to obtain money by false pretences, obtaining money by false pretences and stealing.
The arraignment was, however, stalled due to absence of Wigwe and six others in court.
During proceedings May 2, counsel to Access Bank Plc, Mr Paul Usoro (SAN), informed the court that he filed a preliminary objection challenging the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case.
According to the police SFU, the defendants committed the offences between January 2015 and December, 2015, alongside one Tunji Amushan, who is at large.
The SFU alleged that the defendants conspired with Augusta Energy of Geneva, to defraud Top Oil and Gas Development Ltd., to the tune of over $6.3 million.
It said that they obtained the money from Top Oil and Gas Development Ltd. by falsely presenting to its Chairman, Chief Don Etiebet, and other officers that Cast Oil and Gas Ltd. had a contract with Augusta Energy of Geneva, Switzerland.
According to the SFU, the alleged contract was for supply of 10,000 metric tonnes of Automated Gas Oil (AGO) by Augusta Energy of Geneva to Cast Oil and Gas.
It said that the cost price of the product was $6.3 million.
It added that the defendants allegedly promised to ensure that Top Oil and Gas Development Ltd. recovered money invested for the purchase, supply and importation of the product.
According to the SFU, the defendants fraudulently induced the complainant to pay for the product which was not actually supplied or imported into Nigeria by Augusta Energy, adding that they fraudulently converted the fund to their own use.
NAN reports that the alleged offences contravene Sections 383 (2)(f), 390 (9) and 422 of the Lagos State Criminal Code, 2004, and Section 8 (a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act of 2006.