Court dismisses former Fin Bank MD’s application seeking stay of proceedings

 

Justice Lateefa Okunnu of a Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja dismissed an application filed by embattled Managing Director of Fin Bank, Okey Nwosu seeking a stay of execution of a N10.9 billion fraud case brought against him and three others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Nwosu who was arraigned before Justice Okunnu in 2011 had gone to the Court of Appeal to appeal a ruling in which the court had asked him and the other defendants to open their defense in the theft charge.

The Appeal Court had upturned the decision of the lower court, and had freed Nwosu of the N10 billion fraud charges, stating that the court lacked the jurisdiction to try the case. But the EFCC had contested the decision at the Supreme Court, which ultimately described the Appeal Court’s decision as ‘perverse’.

In the lead judgment delivered by Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammed, the Supreme Court held that the decision of the trial court delivered by Justice Okunnu prevails.

The apex court therefore ordered that the case should be sent back to the Lagos State Chief Judge for Nwosu’s expeditious trial.

At Thursday’s proceedings, Counsel to Nwosu, Anthony Idigbe SAN had brought a stay of proceedings application before the court, pending the interpretation of the Supreme Court judgment whether the matter should start afresh and before which judge.

“My Lord, to the best of our understanding what the Supreme Court decided was that the case be forwarded to the Chief Registrar, which would forward same to a new judge so that the matter can start de novo, afresh,” Idigbe said.

But EFCC Prosecutor, Rotimi Jacobs however reminded the court of the Supreme Court’s decision which decided that the ‘perverse judgement’ of the Appeal Court be set aside.

“Insinuating that the prosecution wants the matter to be heard before a particular judge is unfair. I urge my Lord to take notice if the manner in which the applications were filed which were meant to truncate the dates set aside for the defense to open its case.

Justice Okunnu however expressed reservations about the first defendant’s counsel earlier submission on the prosecution insisting on hearing the case before a particular judge.

“The stage of trial of trial that we are at is for the defense to open their case. Bear in mind that the prosecution closed its case in June 2013, and the trial was stalled for three years.

“It is fair that the case should continue from where it stopped, as it is a part heard case,” Justice Okunnu ruled.

Ruling on Nwosu’s application for stay of proceedings, Justice Okunnu dismissed the application, adding that she found no merit in it.

“The application for stay of proceedings is hereby dismissed, and the defense should go ahead and open their defense,” the Judge ruled.

Nwosu is standing trial alongside: Dayo Famoroti, Agnes Ebubedike and Danjuma Ocholi, – all former directors of the bank.

They are standing trial on a 26 count amended charge of stealing. The accused persons had filed a no case submission before Justice Okunnu, but while dismissing the submission, Okunnu held that there was a nexus between the defendants and the theft charge.

Okunnu said the prosecution had alleged that the four defendants granted loans worth N20bn without the approval or knowledge of Fin bank’s board of directors.

She also noted that the prosecution had alleged that the loans were disbursed to seven companies through a subsidiary of the bank – Springboard Investment Ltd – to purchase the bank’s shares.

The matter has been adjourned till February 7 for the defense to open their case.

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