The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has urged the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos to setting aside the purported pardon granted to an Indian businessman, Ashok Israni and two officials of Keystone Bank, Anayo Nwosu and Olajide Oshodi by the Lagos State Government.
Justice Kudirat Jose of the Lagos State High Court in Igbosere had in December 2019 jailed Israni, Nwosu and Oshodi on an amended 15-count charge bordering on conspiracy and obtaining by false pretence to the tune of N855 million.
The Judge had sentenced them to five years imprisonment each on counts 1, 3, 4, 7, 9, 10 and 13 of stealing.
Justice Jose had also convicted NULEC Industries Limited belonging to Israni and Keystone Bank Limited in her judgment.
The companies were also ordered to pay a fine of N20 million to the Federal Government on counts 1, 10 and 13.
The Jugde also ordered the convicts to restitute the sum of N395 million to the victim of the fraud.
But just four months after their conviction, they were released from prison by officials of the Kirikiri Correctional Centre allegedly on the directive of the Lagos State Government despite the pendency of their separate appeals before the Court of Appeal.
The EFCC in the application filed on its behalf by its counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), insisted that it is the law that pardon cannot be granted to convicts whose rights of appeal has not been exhausted.
The anti-graft agency is also praying the appellate court to declare the purported pardon illegal since the appellants’ appeals had been filed and entered since February 13th, 2020, but could not be heard due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic which has forestall judicial activities.
The EFCC also maintained that it has since prepared its respondent’s brief of argument but was unable to file due to the outbreak of COVID 19 pandemic that has paralysed judicial activities within the court’s Registry.
The commission also claimed that it repeated demands from the Nigerian Correctional Service for a copy of the instrument of pardon showing that the appellants were granted pardon has not been successful.
It alleged that the Correctional Services authority only rather sent a mere letter confirming the release of the appellants.
The EFCC further claimed that immediately one of the appellants, Anayo Nwosu, was released he allegedly made so many publications on many
social media platforms stating that he was wrongly convicted,
jailed and maltreated because of the whims and caprices of Nominal Complainant.
The Court of Appeal has fixed May 6, for the hearing of the application and for the appellants to file their responses.
The appellants in their separate appeals argued that the Lagos State High Court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the charge filed against them because its borders on the purchase of shares by an investor, via a private placement exercise.
They also submitted that Section 251 (1) (e) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, gives the Federal High Court exclusive jurisdiction on matters arising from the operation of Companies pursuant to the Companies and Allied Matters Act.
The EFCC had alleged that they fraudulently converted N855 million, being the property of Dozzy Oil and Gas Ltd, to their use , between 14 July and 31, 2008, in Lagos.