Remain in detention, Judge orders suspect in fuel subsidy fraud

Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo of the Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja Wednesday ruled that Oluwaseun Ogunbambo, a suspect in the petrol subsidy fraud, be remanded in Ikoyi Prison pending trial.

Habila Theck, his co-defendant was, however, remanded in the Economic and Financial Crimes (EFCC) custody pending the fulfillment of his bail conditions.

Mr. Onigbanjo fixed October 21 and 28 for “accelerated hearing” of the case.

‘A criminal past’

Mr. Ogunbambo became the first suspect since the EFCC began their arraignment, last week, to be denied bail.

The prosecution hinged their argument for a refusal of bail application on a lengthy criminal act of the first defendant which transcends the shores of Nigeria.

Mr. Ogunbambo collected loans of N430 million and N230 million from Stanbic IBTC bank with forged documents, the EFCC said.

In January, 2010, the Irish embassy wrote to intimate the EFCC that Mr. Ogunbambo was “apprehended with cash” in a Dublin airport, the anti-graft agency said.

“After this accusation, he was invited to the EFCC office and released on administrative bail,” said Rotimi Jacobs, counsel to EFCC.

“Ever since, he has jumped bail and that stalled the trial of that case since 2010,” he added.

Mr. Jacobs said that although his agency seized Mr. Ogunbambo’s travel documents, he still travels outside the country.

“Since 2010 till today, we are still in custody of his two passports – a British and a Nigerian passport. And yet, this first defendant is still travelling out of the country.

“He uses different names. His name is just like a wearing apparel, he changes as he likes. If he is in the UK, he is Benson Adekunbo Oladapo Sobowale. It’s the same name on his Nigerian passport.

“In this case, his name is Oluwaseun Ogunbambo, a different name. And that’s the name he gave us,” said Mr. Jacobs.

A visibly offended court registrar was shaking his head with disbelief as Mr. Jacobs reeled out the ‘sins’ of the first defendant.

Babajide Koku, Mr. Ogunbambo’s counsel, struggled to salvage his client’s reputation which was being torn to shreds by the prosecution.

“Some of us fail to declare cash at the airport; this is a cash economy,” said Mr. Koku as he tried to justify his client’s arrest at Dublin airport.

On the issue of Mr. Ogunbambo’s multiple identities, his lawyer told the judge that he has “only one identity and that is the one before the court”.

“These allegations they have now raised occurred two years ago, if they are serious, they should have done something about it before now,” said Mr. Koku.

Reacting to Mr. Koku’s arguments, the EFCC blamed their inability to prosecute Mr. Ogunbambo in 2010 on his disappearance.

“He jumped bail. We could not find him and we could not try him in absentia,” Mr. Jacobs said.

The EFCC expressly rejected the first defendant’s offer to submit his international passport again as a pledge that he would not jump bail.

“His depositing his passport to this court does not guarantee his presence because he’ll go and obtain another one,” Mr. Jacobs said.

In his ruling, the judge refused to exercise his discretion to grant bail to the first defendant.

“I said this because the prosecution has given sufficient reasons,” Mr. Onigbanjo said. “Of all the reasons, the most compelling is the multiple identity of the applicant.”

“He demonstrated a high propensity to obtain multiple passports to travel outside the country,” he added.

The second defendant, Mr. Theck, was granted bail in the sum of N20 million and two sureties in like sum. One of the sureties must be in the employment of the state or federal civil service, not less than Grade level 14; the other, a director in a blue chip company.

Also, the sureties must have landed properties in Lagos; worth N100 million or more.

Mr. Theck will be remanded in EFCC custody for two weeks pending the fulfillment of his bail terms. He would then be relocated to Ikoyi prisons if the conditions are not met within the stated time frame.

He is also expected to report to the EFCC’s Investigating Police Officer every first Monday of the month pending the hearing.

 


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