Court Orders Arrest of Ex-Punch Employee Ogunbanjo, Others, Over N950M Alleged Fraud

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A Lagos High Court, sitting in Ikeja, has issued a bench warrant against a former employee of Punch Nigeria Ltd., Olusegun Ogunbanjo and eight others charged with N950million fraud.

Other defendants in the suit No.: ID/21559C/2023, were Olawunmi Ogunbanjo, Vaneloo International Ltd., Valeco Global Ventures, Bagco Garba, Taofeek Ogunbanjo, Ifeanyi Odogwu, Bound Media Ltd., and Godwin Benson.

Justice Ismail Ijelu gave the order after the Director of Public Prosecutions, Dr Babajide Martins, prayed the court to issue a bench warrant against the defendants following their non-appearance in court.

A counsel, one Ms Ugochukwu, who held brief for his principal counsel, (the first defence counsel, Mr Charles Jiakponna), did not oppose the request but prayed for a short adjournment for his senior colleague to be in court.

The judge, in his ruling, said the first defendant had been served with a proof of service since December 12 2023 and Mr. Jiakponna had been appearing as his counsel in the case.

He said Jiakponna had made a passionate plea to the court in the previous proceedings to avail all the defendants in court at the next date of adjournment but failed to do so.

According to him, a general rule in criminal proceedings is that when a defendant is aware of criminal charges against him but wilfully stayed away without a valid reason, his attendance could be secured by a bench warrant.

He said: “The law empowers the court where it is sacrosanct that the defendant is absent without a valid reason to issue a bench warrant against him in order to ensure his presence in court.

“I have considered the antecedent of this case and I find out that the first defendant was aware of this case, the counsel appeared for him on Dec.12 , 2023 and told this court that he received the proof of service on his behalf.

“I, therefore, find and hold that the first defendant is fully aware of the criminal charges against him.

“Consequently, bench warrant is hereby issued for the arrest of the first defendant and other defendants in this case.”

Ijelu adjourned the case until April 30, for arraignment.

The arraignment of the defendants on March 19 suffered setback due to their absence in court.

The court had on February 26 overruled the objections of the first defendant that it lacked the jurisdiction to hear the case.

The court had ruled that it had thoroughly examined the information and proof of evidence in the case and formed the view that its jurisdiction to entertain the case was absolutely intact.

The court had ordered that all the defendants be produced in court to take their plea.

The Lagos State Government had on March 10, 2023, arraigned Ogunbanjo before a Sabo-Yaba Chief Magistrates’ Court for alleged N950 million fraud.

Magistrate Adeola Olatubosun had granted him bail in the sum of N10 million with two sureties in like sum, following his not guilty plea to the three-count charge of obtaining by false pretences, forgery and stealing.

Ogunbanjo was alleged to have obtained N450 million from one Mr Olusola lkuyajesin, and N500 million from one Mr Durodola Balogun under false pretences of using the money to buy stationeries.

He also allegedly forged the organisation’s Local purchase orders to carry out the acts, in contravention of Sections 287, 314 and 365 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.

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