The Federal Government on Monday urged the Federal High Court in Lagos to issue a bench warrant for the arrest of the Chairman of Innoson Nigeria Limited, Innocent Chukwuma, and two of the company’s staff over their alleged involvement in N2.4 billion shipping fraud.
The Innoson boss is being prosecuted on charges of fraud alongside Charles Chukwuma, Maximian Chukwura, a shipping company, Mitsui Osk Lines (MOL), and Anajekwu Sunny.
The police had charged them with an alleged N2.4billion shipping fraud before before Justice Ayokunle Faji, but the Attorney-General of the Federation later took over the case.
Three of the accused have, however, been accused of failing to turn up in court to take their plea in the criminal trial.
Prosecuting Counsel, Julius Ajakaiye, moved an application urging the court to order the absent defendants’ arrest.
He said the charge was served on them through a court-ordered February 8, 2016 substituted service 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 “have refused, failed and neglected to appear in court till date”.
Consequently, he said the defendants were yet to take their plea and should therefore be compelled to appear.
He added that an April 12, 2016 amended charge could not be served on the absent defendants.
Ajakaiye urged the court to grant his application by ordering their arrest. But defence counsel Chief George Uwechue (SAN) and Prof. C. Mbadugha prayed the court to dismiss the application.
They argued that the court lacked jurisdiction to issue the warrant against the defendants because they were not properly charged before the court.
They said the application offends Order 6 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules, adding that there was no proper service on their clients.
The prosecution accused the defendants of conspiring to unlawfully falsify shipping clearance documents.
They were accused of presenting the falsified shipping documents as collateral to Guaranty Trust Bank Plc to obtain a loan of N2.4 billion.
The Federal Government claimed that the defendants committed the offence at Apapa Wharf on October 10, 2013.
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.
Justice Faji adjourned until July 3 for ruling on the application.