An Ikeja Division of the Lagos State High Court Wednesday discharged and acquitted an oil marketer, Anthony Adejugbe, accused of N272 million fraud by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Lateefat Okunnu, the judge, said the prosecution failed to present substantial evidence to prove its case against the defendants.
Mr. Adejugbe and his firm, Tonique Oil Services, had been arraigned in November 2012 before the judge on two counts of stealing and fraud.
According to the EFCC, the defendants fraudulently obtained N272,500 million, from a company, Watergate Petroleum and Gas Limited, under the false pretence of supplying the company five million litres of petroleum.
During the trial, the EFCC called five witnesses and tendered some documents as exhibits.
Mr. Adejugbe and his company, while denying the charges against them, also called five witnesses and tendered several documents.
In her ruling on Wednesday, the judge said there was reasonable doubt regarding the prosecution’s claim that the money in question was intended by the first defendant for the payment of the second defendant’s loan.
”In the event, and by reason of all the foregoing, it is my findings that this is neither a case of stealing nor one of obtaining by false pretence.”
Reviewing the facts of the case as presented by both parties before the court, the judge said the prosecution failed to bring ‘strong evidence’ enough to show that there was such known fact or even, ‘a whiff of rumour’ to back their case of alleged fraud against the defendants.
“I had earlier explained that the missing link necessary for the prosecution to slot in to prove that charge was for them to establish the requisite ‘men’s rea’ on the part of the defendants.
”Given the inability of the prosecution to prove the requisite standard, its assertion that the money the defendants paid to Sterling Bank Plc was for the purpose of settling the second defendant’s liability to the bank cannot be firmly established.”
The judge further held that she did not see or find anything that suggested or even proved that the defendants intended to use the money as ”a pledge or some other form of security”.
”That is not the case before the court. The case, rather, is that they intended to use it to pay off a debt.’
“In the event, and by the reasons of the foregoing, it is my finding that it is neither a case of stealing nor one of obtaining by false pretence.
“The evidence adduced by the prosecution in legal proof of the ‘mens rea’ for the offences charged (the intention behind the actions of the defendants) was not sufficient, so the little that exists from the prosecution came to be eroded by what the defendants have said.
“The prosecution, as a result, was unable to sustain its case. And so, without further ado, I hereby dismiss the case against both defendants.
“Each of them, therefore, stand acquitted and discharged on each of the two count charges.”
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