N855m fraud: EFCC asks court to quash convicted Indian’s pardon

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has asked the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos to declare the purported pardon granted to an Indian businessman, Ashok Israni and three others by the Lagos State Government unconstitutional, null and void.

Addressing a special panel of the appellate court during the hearing of the appeal filed by Israni, and two officials of Keystone Bank, Anayo Nwosu and Olajide Oshodi, EFCC lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) argued that pardon cannot be granted to convicts whose rights of appeal had not been exhausted.

Members of the panel are Justice Joseph Ikyegh (Presiding), Justice Ebiowei Tobi, and Justice B. I. Gafai.

Justice Kudirat Jose of the Lagos State High Court sitting in Igbosere, had on December 9, 2019, convicted Israni, Nwosu and Oshodi, on an amended 15-count charge bordering on conspiracy and obtaining by false pretence to the tune of N855 million.

The judge sentenced them to five years imprisonment each for stealing.

Besides, the firms were also ordered to pay a fine of N20 million to the Federal Government on counts 1, 10 and 13, while the convicts were ordered to restitute the sum of N395million to the fraud victim.

Dissatisfied, the convicts filed separate appeals challenging the judgment, prayed the appellate court to allow the appeals, and set aside the judgment.

The EFCC alleged that four months later, while the appeals were pending, the appellants were released by the Kirikiri Centre of the Nigerian Correctional Services (NCoS), allegedly on the directive of the Lagos State Government.

At the hearing of the Appeal, Jacobs prayed the court to declare the pardon ‘illegal’ saying the appellants’ appeals – filed and entered since February 13, 2020, – was not heard due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forestalled judicial activities.

The EFCC further claimed that following his release, Nwosu allegedly began making publications on social media stating that he was wrongly convicted, jailed and maltreated because of the whims and caprices of the Nominal Complainant.

Jacobs prayed the court to dismiss the appeal, and uphold the lower court judgment.

Earlier, Counsel to the Appeallants, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, and Mr. Biodun Owonikoko SAN adopted their briefs of arguments and prayed the court to allow the Appeal, set aside the judgment of the lower court and acquit all the Appellants of all the charges filed against them.

After hearing arguments from parties,  Justice Ikyegh reserved the appeal for judgement.