The alleged fraud trial of the Nigerian music star, Azeez Fashola, popularly known as Naira Marley, continued on Tuesday at a Federal High Court in Lagos.
The last hearing was on July 13 before the judge, Nicholas Oweibo, adjourned the case because of the court’s annual vacation, which began on July 26 and ended on September 17 (53 days).
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrested Naira Marley, Zlatan, four others in May 2019 in connection with an alleged case of internet fraud and money laundering.
The controversial artiste was arraigned on May 20, 2019, but pleaded not guilty and was granted bail.
The anti-graft agency, EFCC, alleged that some of the credit cards discovered in his residence bore the names Nicole Louise Malyon and Timea Fedorne Tatar.
The second prosecution witness, who began his testimony shortly before the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, continued his evidence on Tuesday.
The court was informed that a total of 2410 messages was analysed from the controversial singer’s phone.
A second prosecution witness, Augustine Anosike, narrated how the messages as well as different credit card numbers were extracted from the singer’s phone.
Led in evidence by the prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, who examined him on Exhibit F, the witness first confirmed to the court that the said Exhibit F was a conclusion of his analysis of the defendant’s iPhone.
He told the court that the device analysed is an iPhone X version 10.6, Model A 1901, with number 07427343432 and an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The witness also gave the IMEL number of the phone as : 35304509527532 as well as the SIM ICCID number as 8923420035948359826.
According to him, an iPhone is a sophisticated device capable of storing a large volume of information, adding that it is the sim card that basically identifies users of applications like WhatsApp.
He, however, told the court that so far as a number has already been registered with a particular WhatsApp account, it matters less if such a user leaves the country.
The witness noted that there are cases where a WhatsApp application can still be used even though the registered sim card is not inserted in the phone, adding that the chatting app used in the analysed device was WhatsApp.
He told the court that from the iPhone analysed, they discovered a total of 977 Short Message Service (SMS) and 1433 chat messages, adding that there were also seven pending status update messages.
The witness told the court that on November 26, 2018, there was an outgoing message registered at about 3.32 p.m. with a credit card number 5264711020433662.
He said that this message was sent to one Yadd.
According to him, on December 11, 2018, there was an incoming message to the defendant’s device which read: ” Your One Time Passcode (OTP) to verify your mobile number is 248716; wasn’t you, please call us on 63450808500″
He said that on the same day, it was discovered that another message was sent at 5.06 p.m. by one Hiya Bayi, to a recipient with the name Raze, adding that the content of the text was another credit card number 42658840359132.
He gave the numbers of the sender and recipient as +447426343432 and +447365280441 respectively.
The witness told the court that the incoming message reflected at 6.18 p.m. showed ” Not recognised”.
According to him, other messages received on the same date include: ” due to try in 20 minutes,”
He told the court that on December 12, 2018 at 10.16 p.m, there was an incoming message which read “Tried and it was unsuccessful; sure you are not rinsing it out then giving it to me to try,”
The witness also read out a plethora of other credit card numbers sent on different dates and times, as well as OTP codes sent.
After his testimony, the prosecutor then informed the court that all the analysed texts were fully contained in a Compact Disc (CD) but that the prosecution had only printed out those portions which were material to its case.
He then sought the opinion of the court and defence, if the prosecution was at liberty to bring a projector for the purpose of playing the CD in the open court, in order to fully discharge its burden.
This application was allowed by the court and also not opposed by defence counsel, Olalekan Ojo (SAN).
Mr Oweibo consequently adjourned the case until October 27, for projection of the CD.
According to the EFCC, the defendant committed the offences on different dates between November 26, 2018, and December 11, 2018, as well as May 10, 2019.
The commission alleged that Fashola and his accomplices conspired to use different Access Bank ATM cards to defraud their victims.
It alleged that the defendant used a bank credit card issued to another person, in a bid to obtain fraudulent financial gains.
The EFCC also said that the defendant possessed counterfeit credit cards belonging to different people, with intent to defraud which amounted to theft.
The alleged offences contravene the provisions of Sections 1 23 (1) (b), 27 (1), and 33(9) of the Cyber Crime (Prohibition) Prevention Act, 2015.
In 2020, the singer and his manager, Seyi Awonuga, were arraigned and sentenced by the Lagos police for violating the interstate travel ban during the COVID-19 travel restriction.
The two accused persons pleaded guilty to the charge and were awarded a fine of one N100,000 each by the magistrate.
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