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Court Orders EFCC To Release Oil Marketer, Anthony Adejugbe's Exotic Cars

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, has ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to immediately release two exotic cars in its custody, to the owner, Mr. Anthony Adejugbe.

Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo, the presiding judge, gave the order sequel to a motion on notice filed by Mr Anthony Adejugbe and his company, Tonique Oil Services Limited, through their lawyer, Lanre Ogunlesi (SAN), seeking a court order directing EFCC to release the cars; a Toyota RAV4 with registration number JW 383 AAA, and a Lexus Jeep LX 570 marked TE 389 KJA in the custody of EFCC.

The Commission took possession of the two cars following an interim order of forfeiture obtained from the Federal High Court on July 23, 2013.

The court had earlier granted the order of interim forfeiture  on the ground that the applicants, were facing a charge at a Lagos High Court, Ikeja.

It would be recalled that the Court, presided over by Justice Lateefat Okunnu, had on November 13, 2017, discharged and acquitted the Mr. Adejugbe and his company, Tonique Oil Services Limited, of any crime, thus, removing the basis for the continued seizure of the two cars.

Delivering ruling on the application seeking  the release of the cars on Friday, Justice Oguntoyinbo held that  though, the court recognized the power of the EFCC to temporary forfeit any property under investigation, in order to preserve it from being dissipated, but that such interim order of forfeiture should not last for ever adding that once that owner or owners of such properties are cleared of any guilt, their properties be released to them by lifting such order of forfeiture.

The trial judge held that since the Lagos state High court has discharge and acquit the applicants of any crime, there is no basis for the Commission to hold on to the two vehicles, more so, it did not file any application for stay of execution, nor appeal the judgment of the court discharging the applicants.

Consequently, Justice Oguntoyinbo ordered the EFCC to forthwith released the two cars to the applicants, Adejugbe and Tonique Oil Services Limited.

The EFCC had sometimes in 2012, charged Adejugbe and his firm, Tonique Oil Services Limited, before Justice Lateefat Okunnu, of Ikeja High Court of Lagos, on a two count-charge of alleged N272.5 million fraud, in a charge marked ID/198C/2012.
 
However, justice Okunnu in her judgment deliverd on November 2017, discharged and acquitted Adejugbe and his firm of the said crime.

Freeing Adejugbe and his firm of the said charge, Justice Okunnu held that the prosecution did not bring up substantial evidence to  prove its case against them. 

The judge ruled that: "there is, therefore, reasonable doubt regarding the case of prosecution that the payment in question was  intended by the defendants for use in paying off part of the second defendant's loan. 

''In the event, and by reason of all the foregoing,  it is my findings that this is neither a case of stealing, nor one of obtaining by false pretence''.  

Reviewing the facts of the case as presented by both parties before the court, Justice Okunnu said the prosecution failed to bring strong evidence enough to show that there was such known fact or even, a whiff of rumour to back their case of alleged fraud against the defendants, she declared.

"I had earlier explained that the missing link necessary for the prosecution to slot in as to prove that charge was for them to establish the requisite 'men's rea' on the part of the defendants. 

''Given the inability of the prosecution to prove the requisite standard, its assertion that the money the defendants paid to Sterling Bank  Plc was for the purpose of settling the second defendant's liability to the bank can not be firmly established.

Justice Okunnu  further held that she did  not see or find anything that suggests, talk less of prove, that the defendants intended to use the money as a pledge or some other form of security. ''That is not the case before the court. The case, rather, is that they intended to use it to pay off a debt.''

"In the event, and by the reasons of the foregoing, it is my finding that it is neither a case of stealing nor one of obtaining by false pretence. 

"The evidence adduced by the prosecution in legal proof of the 'mens rea' for the offences charged (the intention behind the actions of the defendants) was not sufficient,  so  the little that exists from  the prosecution came to be  eroded by what the defendants have said, the prosecution, as a result, was unable to sustain its case. And so, without further ado, I hereby dismiss the case against both defendants. 

"Each of them, therefore, stand acquitted and discharged on each of the two counts charge", Justice Okunnu ordered.

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