N855m Fraud: EFCC Asks Appeal Court to Declare Pardon Granted Convicted Indian, Three Others Illegal
May 5, 2023
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Thursday, May 4, 2023, sought an order of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, declaring the purported pardon granted to an Indian businessman, Ashok Israni and three others by the Lagos State Government illegal.
Israni, Anayo Nwosu and Olajide Oshodi, who are both officials of Keystone Bank, had been convicted by Justice Kudirat Jose of the Lagos State High Court sitting in Igbosere, Lagos on December 9, 2019 on an amended 15-count charge bordering on conspiracy and obtaining by false pretence to the tune of N855 million.
Justice Jose had sentenced them to five years imprisonment each for stealing and also convicted NULEC Industries Limited belonging to Israni and Keystone Bank Limited.
The companies were also ordered to pay a fine of N20 million to the Federal Government on counts 1, 10 and 13.
The Judge had further ordered the convicts to restitute the sum of N395 million to the victim of the fraud.
Subsequently, the convicts, in their separate appeals, had approached the Appellate Court to challenge the judgement of the lower court.
However, four months after their conviction, they were released from prison by officials of the Kirikiri Centre of the Nigerian Correctional Services, NCoS.
They were allegedly released, while their appeals were still pending, on the directive of the Lagos State Government.
During the hearing of the appeals by the Special Panel of the Appellate Court today, counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, submitted that several legal authorities frown on pardon being granted to convicts whose rights of appeal have not been exhausted.
Jacobs, who adopted his brief of argument dated April 27, 2023, urged the court to declare the purported pardon illegal, adding that the appeals had been filed and entered since February 13, 2020.
According to him, Nwosu, immediately after he was released, went to the social media platforms, at different times, claiming that he was wrongly convicted, jailed and maltreated.
He, therefore, urged the court to dismiss the appeal, and uphold the judgement of the lower court.
Earlier, counsel to the appellants, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, and Biodun Owonikoko, SAN, had adopted their briefs of arguments and urged the court to allow the appeal, set aside the judgment of the lower court and acquit the appellants of all the charges filed against them.
Olanipekun told the court that the appellants had filed an affidavit of facts that contains the instrument of the pardon granted to them by the Lagos State government.
Justice Joseph Shagbaor Ikyegh, who led members of the Special Panel that include Justices Joseph Ikyegh, Ebiowei Tobi and B. I. Gafai, reserved the appeal for Judgement, after hearing arguments from parties