HomeNewsIndian Businessman, Bankers Appeal Fraud Conviction

Indian Businessman, Bankers Appeal Fraud Conviction

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LAGOS, Nigeria – An Indian businessman and two officials of Keystone Bank have challenged their conviction over an N855 million fraud case in the Court of Appeal in Lagos.

 

Justice Kudirat Jose of a Lagos State High Court in Igbosere sentenced Ashok Israni, Anayo Nwosu, and Olajide Oshodi to five years imprisonment each on December 9, 2019.

 

The Federal Government of Nigeria found them guilty of conspiring and obtaining money by false pretense.

 

The court also convicted Israni’s company, NULEC Industries Limited, and Keystone Bank Limited, and ordered them to pay a fine of N20 million each.

 

Controversial Release

Officials of Kirikiri prison released them from prison four months after their conviction, allegedly on the directive of the Lagos State Government, despite the pendency of their appeals before the appellate court.

 

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, which prosecuted the case, described their release as illegal and unconstitutional.

 

According to a report by Vanguard, the anti-graft agency argued that the convicts had not exhausted their rights of appeal and could not be pardoned by the state government.

 

The EFCC also accused the state government of interfering with the administration of justice and undermining the rule of law.

 

Appeal Hearing

The death of one of the members of the special panel of the Appeal Court, Justice Joseph Ikyegh, delayed the appeal hearing, which was initially scheduled for May 2023.

 

Justice Olukayode Bada led the regular three-person court panel that reheard the case on Monday.

 

Lawyers to the appellants adopted their briefs of argument and urged the court to set aside the conviction and sentence of their clients.

 

They contended that the trial court erred in law and fact by relying on the evidence of the prosecution witnesses, who they claimed were unreliable and inconsistent. They also argued that the prosecution failed to prove the essential elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.

 

EFCC, on the other hand, adopted its brief of argument dated April 27, 2023, and asked the court to dismiss the appeal and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

 

The commission maintained that it had established a prima facie case against the appellants and that the trial court was right to convict and sentence them based on the overwhelming evidence before it.

 

They have vowed to continue to fight corruption and economic crimes in Nigeria, despite the challenges and obstacles it faces.

 

The EFCC has also expressed confidence in the judiciary and its ability to deliver justice to the victims of fraud and the Nigerian people.

 

The outcome of the appeal will determine whether the convicts will return to prison or walk free.

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