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Crime & Punishment of Monday, 8 November 2021


$32m fraud: Court summons lawyer over failure to present defendant

Justice Justice

The Federal High Court, Lagos, has summoned a lawyer, Mr O. Awowole, to show cause why he should not be sanctioned for failing to present a defendant, Princess Oluwatoyin Kolade, in court.

Justice Peter Lifu ordered Awowole to appear on Tuesday, November 9, following Kolade’s failure to honour a hearing notice for her arraignment on an alleged $32 million fraud charge.

The lawyer was also absent when the matter, marked: FHC/L/407C/2019, was called.

Kolade is one of 11 others facing a 10-count charge of $32 million fraud preferred against them by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (OAGF).

The defendants include four Indian men – Prem Garg, Devashish Garg, Bhagwan Simgh Rawat and Mukul Tyagi, and two Britons – Marcus Wade and Andrew Fairie, said to be at large.

The others, apart from Kolade, are Metal Africa Steel Products Ltd, Wilben Trade Ltd, Fisolak Global Resources Ltd and Kannu Aditya India Ltd.

At the commencement of proceedings, a Deputy Director from the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr Akutah Pius, reminded the court that when he applied for a Bench Warrant for the defendants’ arrest, Awowole undertook to produce Kolade in court.

He said the counsel not only failed to do so, neither he nor Kolade were present in court.

Pius prayed for an adjournment to enable the defendants to appear, arguing that Awowole should face the consequences of his action.

He further prayed the court to renew a bench warrant issued for the defendants by Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo who handled the case before her transfer to the court’s Abeokuta division.

Responding to the judge’s query as to why the prosecution failed to produce the other defendants, despite an arrest warrant and an extradition order, Pius explained that the Federal Government was collaborating with Interpol on that, adding that extradition was time consuming.

He stated that his intention was to arraign the defendant who resides in Lagos, while the extradition process was ongoing for those abroad.

Pius also applied that since counsel to the third, fourth and ninth defendants, Mr Dele Belgore, SAN, was present, the court should appoint him as a special bailiff to serve the charge on his clients.

Belgore countered that his instruction was only to file a motion challenging the jurisdiction of the court from entertaining the charge and to discharge the warrant of arrest earlier issued by the court.

The judge, in a short ruling, ordered that Awowole should appear tomorrow, to explain why disciplinary action should not be taken against him.

The judge also set the two motions filed by Belgore down for hearing.