A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Tuesday granted N30m bail to a businessman, Lanre Smith, accused of N10m fraud.
Justice Ibrahim Kala granted the bail following a motion filed and argued by the defendant’s lawyer, Akin Apara.
Apara who pleaded with the court to admit the defendant to bail on liberal terms stated that Smith was still presumed innocent until otherwise proved.
The judge agreed with the defence’s submission and granted bail to the defendant in the sum of N30m, with two sureties in like sum.
Kala said one of the sureties must be a Grade Level 14 at a government establishment and second, must be a landed property owner within the court’s jurisdiction.
He also ordered that Smith should submit his passport with the court’s deputy chief registrar.
However, after granting the defendant bail, trial commenced and the prosecution counsel, Mike Enejere, called the first witness, Stephen Ogunlola, an operative of Interpol Section of Force CID Annex, Alagbon.
Ogunlola told the court that after the conclusion of investigation, findings emerged and that the nominal complainant and the defendant were old team mates from the 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 also told the court that Okeke paid the fair market value for the dollars to Pay Express, a company not operated by him (but the company that was introduced by Ahmed Mukhaila to him). This money was then forwarded to Mukhaila. And Mukhaila thereafter provided him with a deposit slip for $26,000.
According to him, upon seeing the said slip, Okeke noticed that it was not a cash deposit and he immediately called Mukhaila to express his displeasure and instructed that the same be 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.
Smith was arraigned on January 30, 2024, before the court by the police. He is facing charges of alleged conspiracy and fraud preferred against him by the police.
The police prosecutor, Mr Mike Enejere, told the court that the defendant and others at large had sometime in August 2016, conspired among themselves and conducted a financial transaction which involved proceeds of unlawful activity.
However, the defendant, who is the founder of Grocedy Limited, pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The case has been adjourned till March 24, for continuation of trial.