Court grants businessman N30m bail over alleged N10m fraud in Lagos

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A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Tuesday granted N30m bail to a businessman, Lanre Smith, accused of N10m fraud.

After the defendant’s attorney, Akin Apara, submitted and defended a motion, Justice Ibrahim Kala granted the bail.

Apara argued that Smith was still presumed innocent unless and until it could be demonstrated differently and begged the court to grant the defendant liberal bail.

The judge accepted the defense’s argument and gave the defendant N30 million in bail, plus an additional N30 million for two sureties.

According to Kala, one of the sureties needs to be a Grade 14 employee of a government agency and the other needs to be the owner of landed property that is under the court’s jurisdiction.

In addition, he gave Smith instructions to turn in his passport to the deputy chief registrar of the court.

But once the defendant was granted bail, the trial got underway, and Mike Enejere, the prosecution’s attorney, brought Stephen Ogunlola, an Interpol Section of Force CID Annex, Alagbon, as the first witness.

Ogunlola informed the court that conclusions from the investigation had shown that the defendant and the nominal complainant were former teammates of the now-defunct Island Football Club.

He said the defendant had approached the complainant for a foreign transaction, and that the complainant availed his Well Fargo Account in the US for the transfer of the forex funds.

The witness said, “That the bone of contention from our investigation was the transaction of $26,000 which the account of the nominal complainant is under investigation by the authority in US.”

Apara, who cross-examined Ogunlola, tendered a statement made by Ogunlola who had also testified as the first prosecution witness before Justice Ayokunle Faji, in the same case involving one Precious Usifo, where he had stated that the “culprit, Usifo Precious, residing in Benin has paid back the money. So, my investigation did not review anything wrong done by Mr Lanre Smith.”

Ogunlola also told the court that the defendant had in his statement of facts, stated that: “He met the nominal complainant, Okwudili Okeke, sometime in March 2014 in a football club in Lekki where they are both members.

“Okwudili Okeke sometime in 2016 approached him to help source for the sum of $40,000 or more. And that he had informed Okeke not to pay dollar equivalent until the dollars had been delivered.

“He approached one Mr. Ahmed Mukhaila who had informed him that the dollars were available for sale in the United States. And that he had informed Mukhaila that he will only accept cash from him so as to be certain that the funds were legitimately his.

“Mukhaila initially paid the sum of $20, 000 to Okwudili Okeke’s Wilok Wells Fargo account in the United States and provided him with the deposit slip showing the cash deposit which he then sent to Okeke,” the witness said.

The witness further stated to the court that Okeke paid Pay Express, a business that he did not own but was introduced to by Ahmed Mukhaila, the fair market value for the dollars. Then, Mukhaila received this money. And Mukhaila gave him a $26,000 deposit slip after that.

He claims that when Okeke saw the aforementioned slip and realized it wasn’t a cash payment, he called Mukhaila right away to voice his disapproval and give the order to have it recalled.

“Mukhaila thereafter put him on a conference call with some of his Bureau de Change colleagues who confirmed that the reason for the bankers’ cheque deposit was as a result of the volume of the money and that the bank will not accept cash deposit of the said volume.

“Okeke then insisted that Mukhaila and his colleagues should sign an agreement to the effect that the said money is legitimate and that they will indemnify Smith against any liability as a result of the funds.

“Interpol invited Mukhaila and his colleagues which include Awulu Hassan, Saidi Paki, Huzeni Taeeb, Adigure Chares, Elizabeth Aruoma and Anthony Ojo, who confirmed that they sold the $26,000 in question,” he said.

On January 30, 2024, the police brought Smith before the court to be charged. The police have preferred allegations of fraud and claimed conspiracy against him.

The defendant and other people at large agreed to carry out a financial transaction involving proceeds of illicit activity sometime in August 2016, according to police prosecutor Mr. Mike Enejere, who testified in court.

The defendant, who founded Grocedy Limited, entered a not guilty plea to the allegations, nevertheless.

The trial has been postponed until March 24 in this case.