By Wahab Akinlade
Justice Sodetan Ogunsanya of the Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja, has convicted a businesswoman, Stella Achebe and her company, Infinite Favour Nigeria Limited for fraud.
Justice Ogunsanya, found her guilty as charged and deferred her sentencing “till when the defendant is produced”.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC arraigned Stella Achebe and her company, on offences bordering on issuance of dud cheques, contrary to Section 1(1)(b) of the Dishonoured Cheques (Offences) Act 2004, and obtaining credit by fraud contrary to Section 313(1)(a) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2011.
The defendant was arraigned on an amended four-count charge dated February 27, 2015.
During the trial, the prosecuting counsel, G.C. Akaogu, called four witnesses and tendered several documentary evidence to prove the case against the convict.
The prosecution through the witnesses revealed that the defendant had only N3,129.77 in her account as at the time she issued the cheques.
The prosecution also adduced evidence to prove that the defendant merely obtained the said money by false pretence as she was not into oil and gas business as she claimed.
The defendant, who said she was a lawyer called to the Nigerian Bar in 2002, also took to the dock to defend herself, claiming that she was into oil and gas business.
She had claimed that the money obtained from her victim who petitioned the EFCC was for the supply of AGO from MRS.
However, before the trial ended, the defendant stopped coming to courts, and continued to be absent in court till her conviction.
On February 27, 2019, when parties adopted their written addresses, the court, following an application by the prosecution, revoked the bail of the defendant, and ordered that she be declared wanted. The court issued a bench warrant for her arrest, and this prompted the adjournment of judgement in the case.
However, since then, the defendant has been absent in court.
At today’s proceeding, defence counsel, Mr. O.S. Ahmed told the Court that the defendant could still not be located.
Delivering judgement, Justice Ogunsanya, who held that “it is clear that the defendant has jumped bail, and all efforts by her counsel to locate her, has proved abortive”, noted that the delay in the judgement was due to the “deliberate and willful refusal of the defendant to show face in court”.
The Judge further held that the prosecution through its witnesses and documents tendered, “proved by cogent, credible and convincing evidence beyond every reasonable doubt”, all the charges filed against her, and so found her and her company “guilty as charged”.
Following her conviction, Justice Ogunsanya adjourned sentencing “till when the defendant is produced”.
One of the charges reads: “Stella Achebe and Infinite Favour Nigeria Limited sometimes in April 2013 at Lagos, within the Ikeja Judicial Division knowingly issued a Diamond Bank cheque dated 30th April 2013 for the sum of N10 million only payable to Leinadibanie Nigeria Limited through its Director Daniel Ebinoh, which when presented for payment within three months of issuance was dishonoured on the grounds that no funds or insufficient funds were standing to your credit in the account at the bank on which the cheque was drawn.”
Another charge reads: “Stella Achebe, sometime in 2012 in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court by false pretence fraudulently obtained the sum of N20,950,000 credit for yourself and Infinite Favour Nigeria Limited from Leinadibanie Nigeria Limited through its Director, Daniel Ebinoh and thereby incurred a debt or liability to Leinadibanie Nigeria Limited in the said sum of money.”