The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday arraigned Azubuike Ishiekwene, the publisher of The Interview Magazine, before an Ikeja Special Offences Court, Lagos, on allegations bordering on forgery of document and intent to defraud in the sum of N350 million.
The EFCC charged Mr Ishiekwene alongside Olalekun Abdul, Adeyinka Adewale (absent), and Morakinyo Bolanle (now at large) on a 15 count charge.
They were alleged to have committed offences bordering on conspiracy to forge, forgery, using false document and falsification of books and accounts which are contrary to section 411, 365, 366 and 335 (2) of the criminal laws of Lagos state of Nigeria 2015 and also obtaining money by false pretence contrary to section 1(1),(2) of the advance fee fraud and other related Offences Act No.14 of 2006
The EFCC prosecutor, Joy Amahian, told the court the defendants used a false document titled “Board Resolution of Cleanserve Integrated Energy Solution Limited” dated September 27, 2010, to open an account with Keystone Bank PLC, formerly known as Bank PHB.
The prosecutor further alleged that the defendants had intent to defraud and obtain credit facility for Cleanserve Integrated Energy Solution in the sum of N350 million by false pretence from Wema Bank by falsely representing to them that the “Board Resolution of Cleanserve Integrated Energy Solution” dated December 14, 2010, is genuine which representation they knew to be false.
The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The prosecutor said the defendants should be remanded in prison and added that one of the defendants, Mr Adewale, had absconded.
But counsel to Mr Adewale, Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, a senior advocate of Nigeria, denied his client was on the run, saying he merely travelled out of the country.
The defence counsel urged the court to grant bail to Mr Abdul, the first defendant.
“The first defendant has been on administrative bail of the EFCC since 2018 and anytime he was invited to their office he never failed to honour their invitation.
“The interest at this stage is to ensure that the defendant comes for trial.
“We plead that he drops his international passport and if we can have a trial date for Friday, we will bring him to court. I undertake to also bring Adewale to court,” he said.
Muiz Banire, a senior advocate of Nigeria and counsel to Mr Ishiekwene, urged the court to grant bail to his client because the correctional facilities are congested.
“The maximum capacity of the prison is 800, as at today it is 3000,” Mr Banire said.
The judge acceded to the requests of the defence lawyers and granted bail to their clients.
“Due to the personal plea of the defence counsel on their attendance in court and the forfeiture of their international passports, temporary bail has been granted therein for the hearing of the bail application,” said Mojisola Dada, the judge.
The case was adjourned to January 31 for the continuation of trial.