Efforts by the Special Fraud Unit (SFU) of the Nigeria Police Force to commence trial in an alleged $6.3million pressed against the Managing Director, Cast Oil and Gas, Olatunji Amusan, suffered a setback before a Lagos State High Court, Ikeja, due to the absence of the fourth defendant in the case.
The SFU had arraigned the Managing Director, his company, Sunny Amos Effiong and Augusta Energy S. A. Geneva in 2019 accusing them of stealing 10,000 metric tons of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) valued at $6.3m.
The defendants, according to the prosecution, conspired to defraud Top Oil & Gas Development Limited and its chairman, Chief Don Obot Etiebet, contrary to Section 422 of the Criminal Code, Cap C.38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN), 2004.
SFU stated that Cast Oil & Gas Limiter, its MD, Olatunji Amusan, Sunny Amos Offiong and Augusta Energy S.A. Geneva, allegedly committed the offence between January and December 2015, in Lagos, through alleged deceit, or by other fraudulent means, conspired amongst themselves and with others now at large, to defraud Top Oil & Gas Development Limited and its chairman, Chief Don Obot Etiebet of 10,000 metric tons of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO), which they paid for through Access Bank Plc under an Import Finance Facility scheme (IFF) between Top Oil & Gas Development Limited and Access Bank Plc for the supply and delivery of the said product valued at over 6.3million United States of America Dollars by Augusta Energy S.A. Geneva to them.
Also, the charge indicted the defendant for issuance of a dud cheque, dated 31st May 2016 contrary to Section 1 (1) (b) (i) & (ii) of the Dishonoured Cheques (Offences) Act of 2004.
Cast Oil & Gas Limited and Olatunji Amushan were said to have sometimes in “May 2016, in Lagos, knowingly issued Fidelity Bank cheque No. 23456770, dated 31st May 2016, in the sum of 200 million Naira to the benefit of Top Oil & Gas Development Limited as a refund for the proceeds of its 10,000 metric tons of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO), which you and others fraudulently stole, sold off and converted the proceeds to your use or benefit, but the cheque, upon presentation for payment within three months, was dishonoured by the Bank for lack of funds or sufficient funds in the account, against which it was issued.”
The defendants pleaded not guilty to the nine-count charge levelled against them, as one Mr Oladipupo Samuel, represented the fourth defendant, (Augusta Energy S. A. Geneva) during an arraignment and ever since then the matter has suffered a series of setbacks.
Mr Oladipo Samuel, who has been representing Augusta Energy S. A. Geneva, was not in court today (31st March 2022) which makes the company not have a representative.
Reacting to the development, SFU Head of Legal, Mr Emmanuel Jackson asked the court to invoke the power of Section 258 ACJL 2021 and issue a bench warrant against the company representative, Mr Oladipo Samuel.
Mr Jackson emphasized that Mr Samuel had been representing the company from the investigation period at the SFU before the matter was charged to court, noting that he can not withdraw at the commencement of trial.
However, the presiding judge, Justice Hakeem Oshodi turned down the request base on the provisions of Section 359 of ACJL 2021.
Subsequently, Mr Jackson sought an adjournment to enable the prosecutor to amend the charge information to join the director of the Augusta Energy S. A. Geneva.
According to the SFU Head of Legal, Augusta Energy S. A. Geneva is a material defendant through which the other defendants were able to perpetrate the alleged $6.3m fraud.
Counsel to Amusan, Cast Oil and Gas, and counsel to Sunny Amos Effiong did not oppose the request, even as they urged the court to order an accelerated hearing of the suit.
In his ruling, Justice Hakeem Oshodi granted the prayer and urged the prosecutor to ensure the production of the 4th defendant as the court would not tolerate any form of delay.
The matter was subsequently adjourned till 23rd June for commencement of trial.