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Ex-Custom boss, Area comptroller, five others charged for import duty evasion

By Innocent Anaba and Godwin Oritse
FORMER Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Alhaji Hamman Ahmed, immediately past Customs Area Comptroller, Apapa,  one Mrs Hannatu Sulaiman alongside four others were, yesterday, arraigned before a Federal High Court, siting in Lagos  on a 46 count charge of import duty evasion, running into about N2.6billion.

Other accused persons are Popular Foods Limited (owned by the Vaswani brothers), Silver Maritime (Shipping) Company Limited, Tajudeen Olalere and Lukman Hussain.
Meanwhile, Alhaji Ahmed, Tajudeen Olalere and Lukman Hussain were remanded at Ikoyi Prison, Lagos, while Mrs Sulaiman was remanded in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC).

Ahmed, who headed the service for less than ten months ran into trouble as a result of his involvement with Popular Foods Limited, over alleged refusal of the company to pay import duty tax on several shipment of rice it imported in the country.

Shortly after the charge was read to the accused persons and after they all entered a not guilty plea, counsel to Ahmed, informed the court that he had filed a bail application and would want to argue same.

But counsel to the EFCC, told the court that he needed time to study the application and reply accordingly, following which the trial judge, Justice Ramat Mohammed, adjourned till August 11, 2009 for argument on the bail application.

Similarly, the names of Offodile Chuba and Otuehiere Francis, were also struck out from the charge, after counsel to the EFCC, told the court that they were not in court because they were ill.

The charge preferred against the accused persons, read “that you Popular Foods Ltd, Sunil Vaswani (now at large) Mahesh Vaswani (now at large) Harish Vaswani (now at large) Silver Maritime (Shipping) Company Limited, Tajudeen Olalere, Lukman Hussain, Hamman Bello Ahmed, Hanantu Sulaiman, on or about November 8, 2008 within the Jurisdiction of this court were in relation to 14,000 metric tonnes of rice knowingly concerned in fraudulent evasion of the duty in the sum of N559,174,434.68 chargeable on the said 14,000 metric tonnes rice imported by Popular Foods Limited and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 164 of the Customs and Excise Management Act Cap C45 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.

That that you Popular Foods Ltd, Sunil Vaswani (now at large) Mahesh Vaswani (now at large) Harish Vaswani (now at large) Silver Maritime (Shipping) Company Limited, Tajudeen Olalere, Lukman Hussain, Hamman Bello Ahmed, Hanantu Sulaiman, on or about November 9, 2008 within the Jurisdiction of this court were in relation to 23,000 metric tonnes of rice knowingly concerned in fraudulent evasion of the duty in the sum of N883,093,687.36 chargeable on the said 14,000 metric tonnes rice imported by Popular Foods Limited and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 164 of the Customs and Excise Management Act Cap C45 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.


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