Innocent Chukwuma, Chairman, Innoson Motors Nigeria Limited, on Wednesday failed to make an appearance at an Ikeja High Court for his arraignment by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on charges of fraud and stealing.
Chukwuma was to be arraigned alongside his company, Innoson Motors Limited, and Charles Chukwuma, NAN reports.
Onwukwe, however, objected by saying that he could not accept the advance copy of the charge as a form of service to the defendants.
“Put the copy of the charge on the table if he refuses to accept it,” the judge ordered.
NAN reports that the defendants were to be arraigned on a four-count charge of conspiracy to obtain property by false pretenses, obtaining property by false pretenses, stealing and forgery.
According to charge sheet, the defendants committed the offences between 2009 and July 2011, in Lagos.
The EFCC alleges that defendants, with intent to defraud, conspired to obtain by false pretenses containers of motorcycle, spare parts and raw materials, property of Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB), from Mitsui OSK Lines Limited, Apapa, Lagos.
The defendants are alleged to have fraudulently induced staff of Mitsui OSK and Maersk Line to deliver to them via their clearing agents.
The goods were imported from China in the name of GTB and the defendants are accused of falsely pretending that they were authorised by the bank to clear the goods.
The prosecution claims that the defendants, in order to facilitate the fraud, forged a bill of lading numbered 598286020 of Maersk Line Limited and 11007950841 of Mutsui O.S.K Lines.
The alleged forgery was in order that the forged documents be used or acted upon as genuine, to the prejudice of any person within Lagos or elsewhere.
The offences, according to the EFCC, are in contravention of Sections 1(1)(b), 1(3), and 8(a) of the Advanced Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act 2016 and Sections 309(9), 388, 465 and 467(1)(j) of the Criminal Code of Lagos State 2003.
Justice Dada adjourned the case until February 9 for possible arraignment.
The presiding judge, Justice Mojisola Dada, asked the EFCC to pass an advance copy of the charge to Onwukwe as a form of service.
The defendants, however, failed to appear for their scheduled arraignment to the consternation of the anti-graft agency.
Mr. U. Onwukwe, the counsel to the defendants told the court that he had filed an application challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the case.
“We have an application objecting to the jurisdiction of this court and it was filed on Jan. 15.
“My client has not been served. When this matter was filed, the EFCC went to social media, and it was through social media that we became aware and we have not been served.
“The EFCC arrested them and they know where they reside. They granted the second defendant (Innocent Chukwuma) bail on self recognition.
He said he was told to come to EFCC office on February 20, and in December, they went ahead to file these charges.
“Charles Chukwuma,who is the third defendant in the charge, was not even arrested by the EFCC,” Onwukwe said.
Interjecting, counsel to the EFCC, Miss Zainab Ettu, claimed that the automobile businessman and his co-defendants were evading service.
“The most important thing is for us to proceed to trial; the defendants are on administrative bail.
“As diligent citizens of the country, when they were aware of the charges they are to come to the EFCC office with their counsel and receive a copy of the charge.
“In order to frustrate the trial, they did not come to court but rather filed a frivolous application; they have been evading service.
“The person they are trying to protect is the second defendant who thinks he is too mighty to come to court; the defence counsel is shielding his client.
“My Lord, we will be asking for the shortest possible date since they are evading service, so that we can serve them in the courtroom,” the EFCC prosecutor said.