A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has issued a bench warrant for the arrest of the Chief Executive Officer of Innoson Nigeria Ltd, Innocent Chukwuma, in a trial in which he was accused of falsifying shipping documents used as collateral to Guaranty Trust Bank to obtain a loan of N2.4 billion.
The presiding judge, Ayokunle Faji, issued the bench warrant on Monday, citing Chukwuma’s failure to appear before him over an alleged N2.4 billion fraud case.
The court also ordered the arrest of two of Chukwuma’s employees.
The Innoson CEO is being prosecuted alongside Charles Chukwuma, Maximian Chukwura, Mitsui Osk Lines (MOL), a shipping company and Anajekwu Sunny.
The defendants had been charged to court for their alleged role in conspiring to unlawfully falsify shipping clearance documents to obtain the N2.4 billion loan from GT Bank.
The prosecution claimed that the defendants committed the offence at Apapa Wharf, Lagos, on October 10, 2013.
The case is being prosecuted by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation.
The prosecutor, Julius Ajakaiye, said the charge was served on the defendants by an order for substituted service on February 8, 2016 following the AGF’s take-over of the case.
Ajakaiye said since then, the third and fourth defendants had been coming to court, while the first, second and fifth defendants had refused, failed and neglected to appear in court till date.
He had argued that the defendants were yet to take their pleas and so, should be compelled to appear.
Ajakaiye had also urged the court to grant his application by ordering their arrest.
The team of defence counsel had on their part, urged the court to dismiss the application as the defendants were not properly arraigned before the court, adding that the court lacked jurisdiction to do same.
After arguments, the court had then adjourned the case for ruling.
Delivering his ruling, Faji first highlighted the various arguments and submissions as canvassed by respective parties.
He held that it is clear that the first, second and fifth defendant have not appeared in the criminal charge and consequently held that the application by the prosecution has merit.
“I hereby order as follows: warrant of arrest is hereby issued against Innocent Chukwuma, Charles Chukwuma and Sunny Anajekwe,” he held.
He then adjourned the case till June 28.
In the charge, the prosecution accused the defendants of conspiring to unlawfully falsify shipping clearance documents.
They were accused of “uttering” (presenting) the alleged falsified shipping documents as collateral to Guaranty Trust Bank Plc to allegedly obtain a loan of N2.4billion.
The alleged offence is contrary to sections 1(2) (c) and 3(6) of the miscellaneous offences Act, cap M17, laws of the federation 2004.