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N9.8bn fraud: SFU re-arraigns ‘wonder bank’ operators

LAGOS — The Police Special Fraud Unit, SFU, yesterday, re arraigned two persons in a Federal High Court in Lagos, charged with N9.8 billion fraud.

The accused, Fortune Etaba and Godwin Nwaiche, are standing trial alongside their bank, Establishment House Ltd., on an amended three count charge.

The accused were first arraigned in 2010 on a 300 count charge of fraudulently obtaining large sums of money from various individuals.

The case, however, suffered set back, due to the absence of the then trial judge, Justice Mohammed Liman, who was assigned to an Election Petition Tribunal.

The case was later transferred to Justice Ibrahim Buba, in 2011 and the accused were re arraigned.

The second accused (Nwaichie), had pleaded guilty to the charge, while the first accused (Etaba) pleaded not guilty.

Buba granted the first accused bail, but refused to convict the second accused, after a review of the case, due to a conflict in his plea.

The second accused had pleaded guilty to the charge, but maintained that the amount of money he fraudulently obtained, was less than the sum reflected in the charge.

The judge had, therefore, refused to convict him on his plea and ordered his remand at the Kirikiri Prisons.

At the resumed hearing of the case yesterday, the Prosecutor, Mr Effiong Asuquo, informed the court of an amended three count charge, and prayed the court to re arraign the accused.

Both accused pleaded not guilty to counts one and two, while the second accused pleaded guilty to count three.
However, Buba, also refused to convict the second accused, due to a defect in the charge.

The judge said that several offences were lumped in the third count, instead of being distinctly charged.
He, therefore, ordered the prosecution and defence counsel to address the court on the propriety of the charge.
He adjourned the case to Jan. 29 for hearing.

In the charge, the accused were said to have committed the offence between June and December,  2009.
Asuquo told the court that the accused obtained various sums of money, totaling N9.8 billion from a number of people, especially businessmen at the Alaba International Market, Ojo, Lagos.

He said that the accused falsely misrepresented to the individuals that they would get back 50 per cent of their deposits after 21 days.

The prosecutor said the accused could not repay either the deposited sum, or the “multiplied sum’’ as represented.

AmarSim Associations Development Consultants

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