EFCC charges WEMA Bank to court over N135 million fraud – Hearing begins May 31

By The Rainbow

A Lagos High Court sitting in Igbosere presided over by Justice Samuel Candide-Johnson,  has fixed  May 31, 2013 for commencement of  hearing on a suit filed by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) against WEMA Bank and three others over an alleged N135 million fraud.

The anti-graft agency, in  the suit  No-LCD\89\2012,  has raised a four count charge bordering on conspiracy, fraud and stealing against  WEMA Bank as (3rd defendant), Faniran Olubanji Samuel (1st defendant), Ariel Investment Management Limited (2nd defendant) and one Adegoke Adeleke (4th defendant).

Justice Candide Johnson  had asked the counsels to all the parties to address the court on the  issue on whether the Managing Director of WEMA bank should be compelled to enter into the dock for his company, (WEMA Bank Plc).

Counsel to WEMA Bank, O Arulogun (SAN), submitted  that the issue of who is competent to represent a corporate body in a criminal matter is governed by Section 357 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State.

He argued that a corporate body involved in a criminal matter is required in law to write to the court and plead guilty or not guilty.

According to the counsel, the corporate body must state in writing its representative and that the representative need not be the Managing Director of the bank.

''The corporate body must state in writing who is to represent it in a criminal proceeding. The representative could be anybody that has been appointed by seal of corporation or the Managing Director of the company,'' he said.

In his ruling, the trial judge held that, 'I am satisfied that the court can admit any representative from the body corporate who is being charged in the court for an alleged criminal offence as long as there is a written letter mandating such representative to do so by the Managing Director (MD) or Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company'.

The court held that 'Wema Bank has sent a written letter appointing Adekunle Onitiri to represent it in this charge. He has satisfied Section 35(2) of the Constitution of Nigeria. Ontiri is accordingly ordered to attend trial in the case till it is disposed of.'

The arraignment of the defendants was based on a petition dated January 2009 and written by Plethora Solicitor on behalf of its client, APT Securities & Fund Limited to the EFCC.

In the petition titled, ''The Fraudulent Clearance of Cheque by WEMA BANK Plc.'', the petitioner argued that on or about May 12, 2008, a Guaranty Trust Bank Cheque No 00005784 dated March 28 valued N135 million issued by APT Securities & Fund Limited to FOOD Concept Limited\FBN Capital Limited was fraudulently lodged into WEMA account belonging to Ariel Investment Management Limited (2nd defendant).

The petitioner also told the court that the cheque was allegedly cleared by the bank without consent of its client (APT Securities & Fund Limit).

According to the petition, the ease which the cheque which was presented as a third party cheque was cleared without the consent of our client or the payee and the attempt by WEMA bank officials to cover their tracks and protect the perpetrators of this crime,  leaves much room for suspicion.