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Ex-Customs boss, others get N400m bail

By Innocent Anaba
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, yesterday granted temporary reprieve to a former Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Alhaji Hamman Ahmed and ex-Customs Area Comptroller of the Apapa Area, Mrs. Hannatu Sulaiman, as it admitted them to bail for N100 million each.

Other accused persons, the Managing Director of Popular Foods Limited, Mr. Tajudeen Olalere and Managing Director of Silver Maritime Shipping Company, Mr. Lukman Hussein, were also granted bail for N100m each.

The accused persons are facing a 46-count charge of import duty invasion, estimated at N2.6billion.

The trial judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, who ruled on the bail application by the accused, admitted them to bail for N100m each, with one surety, who must have landed property in Ikoyi, Lekki or Victioria Island in Lagos State.

The court also ordered that the sureties’ title document must be submitted to the court registrar and also swear to an affidavit of means that the property can cover the bail sum. Justice Mohammed said the grant of bail was at the discretion of the court, which though must be exercised judicially and judiciously and according to the circumstances of the case.

He added that the burden is on the prosecution to placed material before the court to assist it in the task.

The court further held since the prosecution had fail to denial the fact that the accused persons were granted bail by the EFCC and that they did not jump bail, and since according to him, it was the position of the law, that when facts are not denial, is should be taken as been true.

On the argument by the EFCC counsel that if the accused were released, that they will interfere with prosecution witnesses, who are their staffs, the court held that there is no evidence before the court to suggest that the accused persons tried to influence prosecution witnesses when they were granted bail by the EFCC.

According to the court, the EFCC had not shown any urgent reason, why the court should not grant the accused persons bail, consequent upon which the court granted them bail and further adjourned hearing in the matter, till November 11, 2009.

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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