Indian businessman arraigned over N32bn fraud

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A Nigerian based Indian businessman, Patrick Fernandez, was on Monday re-arraigned before a Federal High Court in Lagos, over N32bn fraud.

The accused was arraigned before Justice Ishola Olatoregun, following the transfer of the previous trial judge, Justice John Tsoho from the Lagos division.

He is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC).

When the case was mentioned, Mr. Tayo Olukotun announced appearance for the prosecution while Mr. Solo Aguma (SAN) announced his appearance for the accused.

The 56 count charge was then read over to the accused.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In a short ruling on the bail application, Justice Olatoregun held that the accused should continue with the earlier bail granted by the previous judge.

She however, urged counsels to make fresh recommendations as to the sureties to be provided.

She adjourned the case to June 20, 21 and 22 for trial and warned counsels to exhibit diligence in prosecution.

Olatoregun stressed that the matter would be adjourned from day to day, and threatened to strike out the case, if counsels showed any signs of unseriousness.
It will be recalled that Fernandez was charged alongside his companies, on 56 counts bordering on the alleged offence.

He was alleged to have committed fraud against various commercial banks in Nigeria, to the tune of about N32 billion.

It will be recalled that in his testimony at the last hearing before the previous judge, a former investigator with the EFCC Mr. Bashir Abdullahi, revealed how the alleged fraud was uncovered.

He had said that the commission learnt of the fraud when one of the banks contacted the agency’s financial Intelligence Unit.

The witness had said that in July 2008, he was assigned to investigate the case of suspicious financial activities involving Fernandez and his companies.

According to him, his investigations revealed high volume transactions from one account to another, all of which he said were fraudulent.

He said that the commission’s findings was that the accused was involved in cheque-kitting and round tripping which he said was also termed “Lazy Susan”, a business model.”

He said that “Lazy Susan” involves members of a business group transferring money from one sister company to another without selling any commodity, using money obtained from banks as loans.

The transactions, he said, involved the use of “suspended cheques” which did not go through the clearing house.

The offence is said to have contravened the provisions of sections 314 of the Criminal Code Laws of the Federation 2004‎

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