July 28, 2021 5:10 pm

Indians, British nationals wanted in Nigeria over fraud charges

The Attorney-General of the Federation charged the foreigners and their firms with defrauding a Nigerian bank through an import loan scheme.

The Federal High Court in Lagos has summoned four Indian and British citizens, as well as their companies, to face fraud and cheating charges worth over $37 million.

The money translates into over N14 billion at the exchange rate of $1 to N380.5.

In the court documents obtained by our source, the Attorney-General of the Federation’s (AGF) office accused the foreigners and others of defrauding a Nigerian bank, Access Bank Plc, through an import loan scheme.

The 11 defendants charged in the case were also accused of defrauding the federal government through tax evasion and refusal to pay relevant import duty

On Thursday, copies of the court documents, including the charges and the summonses issued individually against seven out of the 11 defendants listed in the case as defendants were made available.

The judge, Oluremi Oguntoyinbo, issued the individual summonses against the seven defendants on March 10 following an oral application by Pius Akutah of the Office of the AGF office.

The summon are part of moves to initiate extradition requests against the accused foreigners, who are said to have left Nigeria for their home countries.

“Complaint has been made this day by the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” the judge stated, in each of the seven summonses seen by our reporter and ordered the affected the defendants to appear in court on May 5.

“You are, therefore, hereby, summoned to appear before the Federal High Court sitting at Court 7 on May 5, 2021 at the hour of 9.00 in the fore noon to answer to the said complaint,” the documents read in part.

Those summoned

An Indian company, Kannu Aditya India Ltd, and its two Indian directors – Bhagwan Rawat and Mukul Tyagi – are among those summoned by the court.

Also summoned is a company registered in both the United Kingdom (U.K.) and in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Wilben Trade Limited.

The firm’s British chairman, Marcus Wade, and its British chief executive officer, Andrew Fairie, were also issued separate summonses.

The court also issued a summons against a company owned by some Indians but registered in Nigeria, Metal Africa Steel Products (MASP) Limited.

Other defendants

The rest of the defendants are Prem Garg and Devashish Garg, father and son of Indian nationality, and owners of MASP Limited.

It is understood that the AGF office did not request the court to issue summonses against the Gargs because an extradition request had already been sent to Indian authorities to help bring them back to Nigeria, to face the charges.

The remaining defendants are a Nigerian firm, Fisolak Global Resources Limited, and its Nigerian Managing Director, Oluwatoyin Kolade.

‘INTERPOL to be contacted’

In a “verifying affidavit” filed along with the charges, the AGF office said police investigations revealed a prima facie case against the defendants, and that the charges were filed to enable it to obtain a warrant of arrest to kick start the extradition process.

An official of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Abubakar Bello, who deposed to the affidavit, added that “by this charge, the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation will inform the INTERPOL NCB, Abuja” to declare the defendants “wanted” and “will proceed to make request for their extradition to stand trial before this honourable court”.

Investigations

Access Bank Plc had sent a petition to the police in June 2019, accusing MASP and its owners of “fraudulently obtaining finance facilities by false pretence, forgery of transactional documents, and the diversion of the said facilities.”

The bank said it granted $37.8 million as an import facility to MASP in August 2015, to support the company’s importation of billets and acquisition of machinery for its expansion.

It said the facility was disbursed to the company, based along Ikorodu-Sagamu Road, in Ogun State, in two tranches of $32 million for the importation of steel billets and $5.8million for the importation of machinery.

The bank alleged that the company diverted a major part of the facilities.

Police investigators alleged that MASP Ltd obtained $32million from Access Bank purportedly for the importation of steel billets, but only bought less valued version of the products at about $6million, and diverted the balance of $26million.

The company was similarly accused of not spending the $5.8million on the machinery it was agreed for.

Charges

The AGF office filed 10 counts of conspiracy, over-invoicing, cheating, advance fee fraud, fraudulent conversion through record falsification, and tax evasion against the 11 defendants.

Mr Akutah, the lead prosecuting counsel from the AGF office, filed the charges before the Federal High Court in Lagos on October 8, 2020.

The charges are mainly in two folds, with part of them relating to the $32million and the others relating to the $5,724,000.

Both transactions, which were said to have taken place in August 2015, totalled $37,724,000 translating into over N14billion.

MASP, its owners as well as other alleged conspirators are part of the 11 defendants charged in the case.

Prem Garg, Devashish Garg (Indians), MASP Ltd., Fisolak Global Resources Limited (Nigerian firm), Ms Kolade, Wilben Trade Limited (U.K. and UAE firm), Mr Wade and Mr Fairie (British nationals) are fingered in respect of the $32million transaction.

The prosecution alleged in one of the counts that in August 2015, at Apapa Sea Port Lagos, the defendants committed an offence of “cheating” Access Bank.

The defendants allegedly caused the bank to deliver $32million for the purchase of steel billets, but went ahead to use the money “to purchase steel billets of a lesser value of about US$6,000,000, while diverting the difference of about US$26,000,000.”

The alleged offence is said to be punishable under Section 421 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

The prosecution alleged in another count that the same set of defendants “conspired” among themselves to commit the offence of “inducing” the bank in Lagos “by means of over-invoicing” to deliver $32million “through the medium of contract with the bank for the benefit of Wilben Trade Ltd” in the UAE, “thereby committing an offence said to be punishable under Section 1(3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act, Cap. A6, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.”

It also alleged that the defendants obtained the $32million from Access Bank Plc under false pretence of purchasing steel billets of the same value but “fraudulently failed to do as agreed by contract” and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 419A of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.”

The prosecution also accused them of “conversion of the sum of US$32,000,000.00 derived directly from falsifying records to avoid payment of assessed duty payable on the letters of credit and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 18 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.”

They were also accused of defrauding the federal government of “duty payable”, by unlawfully removing the metal billets from Tin Can Island Wharf, Lagos, to MASP Ltd at KM 16 Ikorodu-Sagamu Road, in Ogun State, “and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 164 of the Customs and Excise Management Act, Cap C45, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.”

In respect of the $5.8million transaction, the prosecution alleged that the Gargs, MASP Limited, Fisolak Global Resources Limited,Ms Kolade Kannu Aditya India Ltd, Messrs Rawat and Tyagi, with an “intent to defraud” Access Bank Plc, allegedly induced the bank to deliver $5,724,000 to Kannu Aditya India Ltd based in Delhi, India “under the false pretence that they would import machinery”.

The prosecution stated that, instead of importing the agreed machinery, the defendants “purchased products different from those stated in the contract and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 1(3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act, Cap. A6 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.”

The prosecution also alleged that the defendants, at Apapa Sea Port, Lagos, converted the $5,724,000, allegedly “derived directly from tax evasion and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 18 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.”(Premium Times)

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