Court set for trial of Emirates Airline, others over $1.6m theft

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By Michael Ojo

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos have adjourned further proceedings in a criminal trial involving Emirate Airlines and six others to February 6 and 7, 2018 over an alleged stealing of a suitcase containing $1.630m.

The criminal trial is before Justice Mohammed Idris.The defendants were charged to court for alleged conspiracy and stealing  four bags that contains the sums of $1.630m belonging to one Prince Chu Ikem Orji.

According to the prosecution counsel Barr Mike O’Osong the offence was committed sometime 2007 when the complainant travelled aboard Emirate Airline tickets to China.

The defendants in the suit include Emirate Airlines, Pathfinders International Limited, Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Plz, Abayomi Adekambi Abiola, Isiaka Adegoke Adedeji, Awonubi Abayomi, and George Ipekhia.

One of the 11th counts charge reads ” that you, Emirates Airlines, Pathfinders International Limited, Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Plc, Abayomi Adekambi Abiola, Isiaka Adegoke Adedeji, Awonubi Abayomi, George Ipekhia and others now at large on or about the 19th day of December, 2007 at Murtala Mohammed Airport, Ikeja within the jurisdiction of this honourable court conspired among yourselves to commit a felony to with stealing four bags with tag number EK 428682, EK 428583, EK 650162, EK 650161, tagged and collected by you from prince Chu Ikem Orji, one of which contained the sum of $1,630,000 on the promise of keeping them intact for onward delivery to him at Guangzhou China and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 516 of the criminal Code Act, Cap C38, Laws of the federation of Nigeria, 2004″.

The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges pressed against them.

The petitioner, when he discovered that the bag containing the money was missing, petitioned the Commissioner of Police in charge of Special Fraud Unit (SFU).

The police swung into action and arrested the accused persons. The Sales Manager of Emirate Airline, Alhaji Adedeji wrote a letter of undertaking dated November 1,2008 with a promise to produce the missing bags.

The failure to fulfil the undertaking led the police to arraign thedefendants in March 2012 before honourable justice Mohammed Idriss .

However on the 21st of June, 2012 Emirates Airlines and six others filed motion before the judge to quash the charges on the grounds that the charge have not disclosed any prima facie case against them, but Justice Idris refused the application.

The defendants proceeded to appeal court to challenge the decision of the lower court for dismissing their application to quash the charges pressed against them by the Federal Republic of Nigeria

Justice Idris said : “I’m of the firm view that this court is obliged to conduct summary trial of the accused without proof of evidence as it is not a requirement for summary trial as provided under section 33(2) of federal high court Act. Their is no material before the court to enable it conclude that the charge constitute an abuse of court process. In view of all that I have stated above, I am of the firm view that this application is premature and lacks merit. Same is accordingly dismissed “.

Consequently, the defendants was not satisfied with justice Idris ruling and filed a notice of appeal

However, in an unanimous decision the appellate court  upheld the decision of the lower court.  Delivering the lead judgement, Justice Samuel Chukwudumebi Oseji, JCA stated: “I have carefully perused the record of appeal, and I failed to see therein any evidence or document showing that Prince Orji the owner of the missing money was tried and convicted for money laundering. It is also not disputed anywhere that the said sum of money is missing and it belongs to Prince Orji;

In the instant case there is nowhere shown in the record of appeal that the said Prince Orji the owner of the allegedly stolen money has been tried, convicted and sentenced for any offence relating to the money or even the much taunted money laundering (prohibition) Act which has become a sing song for the appellants counsel who by his arguments and assertions has tried, convicted and sentenced the said Prince Orji and in fact got him to forfiet the sum of $1,630,000 hence his strong stance that the charge against the appellants cannot stand abinitio because it is based on the proceed of criminality and illegality.

In the final result, I hold that this appeal lacks merit it is hereby dismissed”.

“The ruling of the Federal High Court, Lagos division delivered by Justice M. B. Idris on the 21st day of January 2013 is hereby affirmed and accelerated hearing of this charge is hereby ordered before the below”.

Counsel to the defendants, Prof Awah Kalu SAN applied before Justice Idris at the last adjourned date that the Attorney General be ordered to produce a the same document upon which appeal court dismissed their appeal.

This was opposed by the prosecution counsel Mike O’Song, claiming that the same application was refused in the civil suit pending before Justice Muslim Hassan of the court.

But Justice Idris was of the view that the defendants in a criminal proceeding must be accorded all necessary material to enable them prepared for their defence and granted the order.

Justice Idris adjourned further proceedings to February 6 and 7, 2018.

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