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EFCC suit: Court orders official to represent Bank

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Justice Samuel Candide-Johnson of a Lagos High Court sitting in Igbosere has ordered the Assistant Manager of Wema Bank Plc, Mr Adekunle Onitiri, to appear in court following a criminal suit brought against the bank and three others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

The order was sequel to an application brought before the court by the anti-graft agency, on who is the right person to represent the bank in the criminal matter.

According to the the judge:“I am satisfied that the court can admit any representative from the body corporate who is being charged in the court for an alleged criminal offence as long as there is a written letter mandating such representative to do so by the Managing Director (MD) or Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company.

“Wema Bank has sent a written letter appointing Adekunle Onitiri to represent it in this charge. He has satisfied Section 35(2) of the Constitution of Nigeria.

Arraignment of the defendants

Ontiri is accordingly ordered to attend trial in the case till it is disposed of.”

The judge thereafter held that arraignment of the defendants shall proceed with immediate effect and adjourned till May 31 for continuation of hearing.

In the suit No-LCD\89\2012, EFCC had accused WEMA bank (3rd defendant), Faniran Olubanji Samuel (1st defendant), Ariel Investment Management Limited (2nd defendant) and Adegoke Adeleke (4th defendant) of committing conspiracy, fraud and stealing .

But the suit was initially adjourned after the judge had taken arguments on the proper person to represent a the bank, and directed all the parties to address the court on the matter.

While addressing the court, counsel to WEMA bank, Mr O. Arulogun SAN had argued that the issue of who was competent to represent a corporate body in a criminal matter was governed by Section 357 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State.

He further argued that the corporate body must state in writing its representative and that the representative needed not be the Managing Director of the bank, noting that Onitiri was appointed by WEMA bank to represent it in the criminal matter.

“The corporate body must state in writing who is to represent it in a criminal proceeding. The representative could be anybody that has been appointed by seal of corporation or the Managing Director of the company” Arulogun said.

It will be recalled that the arraignment of the defendants was based on a petition dated January 2009, written by Plethora Solicitor on behalf of its client, APT Securities & Fund Limited to the EFCC, saying that on May 12, 2008 a Guaranty Trust Cheque No 00005784 dated March 28 valued N135 million issued by APT Securities & Fund Limited to FOOD Concept Limited\FBN Capital Limited was lodged into WEMA account belonging to Ariel Investment Management Limited (2nd defendant).

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