Justice Christopher Balogun of the Lagos State High Court, sitting in Igbosere, has fixed December 1 for ruling on the bail application brought by Emeka Ephraim Ugwuonye, a United States-based Nigerian lawyer who is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on a 2-count charge of fraudulently converting the sum of $94,948.00 (Ninety four thousand, nine hundred and forty eight United States of America dollars) belonging to one Mr. Sola Adeeyo.
Counsel to EFCC, Vitalis Ahaotu, told the court not to grant bail to the accused person as he was likely to jump bail. He said the accused person possesses both American and Nigerian passports and so could run away if granted bail. He also told the court to refuse bail for the accused person as he was likely to interfere with further investigation and intimidate witnesses based on his connections and capacity. He said the accused has the capacity as a lawyer to also defraud unsuspecting victims as he has a criminal antecedence.
The accused is currently facing two separate cases of criminal offence at both the FCT High Court and the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The EFCC counsel also canvassed that should the court be disposed to granting bail to the accused person, it will be in the interest of justice to order the accused to submit both his American and Nigerian passports to the court.
He also told the court that the accused has refused to submit his passport to the EFCC for sighting even though it forms part of the proof of evidence. He further told the court to dismiss the bail application of the accused as it lacks merit, and that it has failed to place sufficient material before the court.
However, counsel to Mr. Ugwuonye, Bamidele Aturu, asked the court to grant bail to his client as the offence for which he was arraigned was bailable. He told the court that the accused has been granted bail in the charges preferred against him by the EFCC before two other courts. He said the accused would not jump bail but will make himself available for trial.
After listening to the submission of both prosecution and defence counsels, Justice Balogun ordered the counsel to submit to the court the conditions in which he got bail in the two other cases. Justice Balogun adjourned proceedings to December 1, 2011 while ordering that the accused be remanded in EFCC custody.
The charge against the defendant reads:
Statement of Offence
Stealing contrary to Section 383 of the Criminal Code Law, Cap 17 Laws of Lagos State 2004 and punishable under Section 390(8)(b) of the Criminal Code Law Cap 17 Laws of Lagos State, 2004.
Particular of Offence
That you Emeka Ephraim Ugwuonye , sometime in the year 2007 at Lagos within the jurisdiction of the High Court of Lagos State having received the sum of $94,948.00 (Ninety four thousand, nine hundred and forty eight United State of America Dollars) property of Sola Adeeyo, on whose instruction you received the said amount for whom you acted as Attorney converted the said amount to your personal use and thereby committed an offence.
Statement of Offence
Fraudulent conversion of Trust property contrary to Section 434 of the Criminal Code, Cap 17, Laws of Lagos State, 2004
Particular of Offence
That you Emeka Ephraim Ugwuonye sometime in the year 2007 at Lagos within the jurisdiction of the High Court of Lagos State being entrusted with the sum of $94,948.00 (Ninety Thousand, Nine hundred and Forty Eight United States of American Dollars) property of Sola Adeeyo with intent to defraud, converted the said sum to your personal use, which use was not authorized by Sola Adeeyo and thereby committed an offence.
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