By: Adetokunbo Fakeye
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC on Tuesday raised alarm over attempts by certain group of lawyers and their sponsors to short-change Nigeria, saying the Commission will not allow anyone to defraud the country over a controversial claim of £2.5billion.
The Commission in a statement by its spokesperson, Tony Orilade, strongly condemned what it call a calculated attempt by a group of 27 lawyers to blackmail one of its lead prosecutors, Mr. Rotimi Jacob, SAN, on the contentious £ 2.5billion, insisting that Jacobs is a reputable lawyer who has successfully prosecuted several high-profile cases for the EFCC.
The 27 lawyers, the Commission said had, in a petition addressed to the National Executive of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, alleged that Jacobs was using the EFC C to arrest, harass and intimidate them for winning a monetary suit against the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN and Union Bank of Nigeria plc.
Speaking through one Mr. Onyechi Egwuonwu, the 27 lawyers, Orilade said further alleged that the Union Bank induced the EFCC and Jacobs to file criminal charges against their client, Petro Union Oil, in order to frustrate the execution of the judgment.
But debunking the claim of the lawyers on Tuesday, the EFCC dismissed the claim, describing it as false and misleading.
“For the purpose of clarity, the purported £2.5billion is a fictitious fund Petro Union Oil allegedly drew against an account in BarclaysBank (United Kingdom) through a cheque issued in 1994.
“The company made a fraudulent attempt to present the cheque for clearing through Union Bank but enquiries made by Union Bank at Barclays Bank showed that the account against which the cheque was drawn was closed in 1989, five years before the cheque was presented in Lagos for clearing.
“Besides, the company had also been voluntarily dissolved by its promoters in the United Kingdom. The same promoters are the mastermind of Petro Union oil.
“For some inscrutable reasons, Petro Union Oil was able to procure a court judgment for the £2.5billion against the CBN and Union Bank on the basis of an alleged CBN Statement of Account when it is elementary that the CBN, like all Central Banks across the world, does not maintain accounts for private entities.
“Based on the foregoing, the EFCC filed a 7-count charge against Petro Union oil and its directors and trial is ongoing at the Federal High Court”, the Commission said.
EFCC pointed out that, the publication alleging intimidation and harassment by the lawyers is a desperate attempt by the shady elements and their promoters to divert attention from their ongoing trial and frustrate the EFCC in its determination to rid the country of corrupt and manipulative elements, including the lawyers and other professionals who lent their names to aid the fraud.
“Mr. Jacobs, SAN, is a highly respected member of the legal profession who has worked assiduously in conjunction with the EFCC to secure convictions of many notable convicts in the society.
“The EFCC will not be deterred from its avowed goal and is considering filing a complaint against these desperate lawyers with the appropriate organ of the legal profession”, Orilade stated.