Barristers & Solicitors
Lawyers Kick as Lagos AG Discontinues $8.8m Fraud Case Against Briton

A GROUP of lawyers under the aegis of Centre for Law and Civil Culture has protested the decision of Lagos State Attorney General Adeniji Kazeem to discontinue an $8.8million fraud proceedings against a Briton, Deepak Khilnan.

Its leader, Olayinka Ola-Daniels described the group as amicus curia (friends of the court) during the resumed hearing of the case  before  Justice Oluwatoyin Ipaye.

Ola-Daniels accused the AG of failing to give any reasonable excuse why the case initiated by his predecessor in 2015, should be discontinued.

Khilnani, a chartered accountant of Indian descent, was charged to court alongside his alleged accomplice, an Indian national, Sushil Chandra, by the state government.

They were accused of defrauding Gree Fuels Limited of  $8, 776, 862 in 2008.

At resumed proceedings last Thursday, Ola-Daniels  told the court that the matter was of public interest and that the Attorney-General ought not to discontinue such matter without any reason.

He said since the police and the DPP had investigated the matter and concluded that the defendants had a case to answer and the court having issued a warrant for the defendant’s arrest on the request of the state counsel on April 3 this year, the AG cannot discontinue the case without reasonable excuse.

He also also noted that since the case commenced in 2015, none of the defendants had appeared in court for arraignment.

According to Ola-Daniels, the Nigerian partners of Khilnani in 2013 petitioned the Inspector General of Police (IGP) accusing the defendants  of financial crimes.

The petition claimed that in 2008 the complainants opened a Letter of Credit in favour of Khilnani’s firm, Gentec Energy Plc. UK, for the purchase of equipment for the local partnership.

Based on the petition, Khilnani  was arrested by the police but granted administrative bail  with his lawyer, Chris Okunowo, standing as his surety.

Ola-Daniels said the Briton was later arraigned before a Lagos Magistrates’ Court  on  a six-count charge under sections 323(1), 285(8), 321(1) and 312 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos, 2011.

He noted that Prosecuting Inspector Stephen Molo told the court that Khilnani reportedly jumped administrative bail granted by the police and fled to the United Kingdom.

He narrated that based on the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP)’s recommendation the AG took over the case and charged Khilnani and Chandra before the High Court in 2015 for alleged fraud.

Earlier the prosecution team led by Akin George informed the court that the state had filed a notice of discontinuance dated June 29, 2017 after reviewing the charges against the defendants.

George said it was  the AG’s view that there was no need to pursue the trial.

“My Lord, we did inform this court at the last adjourned date that the Attorney-General is reviewing this matter. The outcome of this review is that the state has filed a notice of discontinuance of this trial. We pray the court to strike out this matter,” he said.

Following his submission defence counsel, George Oguntade, (SAN), urged the court to strike out the charge against both defendants.

Oguntade also prayed the court to strike out an earlier arrest warrant issued against them.

Ruling, Justice Ipaye held that the statutory powers to initiate and discontinue a criminal proceeding in Lagos State lies with the Attorney-General.

“The state represented by the Attorney-General has the absolute powers to initiate and discontinue a criminal proceeding.

“It is not for this court to mitigate or investigate the exercise of these legitimate powers.

“I see no reason why this charge should not be struck out. This charge is hereby struck out,” Justice Ipaye held.

The judge also vacated the warrant issued earlier for the arrest of both defendants.

“An order of arrest made by this court for the arrest of the defendants dated April 3, 2017 is hereby vacated. This matter is adjourned sine die,” she held.

Source: Adebisi Onanuga and Mariam Salami
The Nation News

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