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N550m rice theft: Lebanese, eight Nigerians await bail ruling

The Federal High Court on Monday in Abuja reserved Aug.15 for  ruling in bail applications filed by a Lebanese national and eight Nigerians, charged for allegedly diverting bags of rice worth N550 million.

Justice Sylvester Chukwu reserved the date after the parties made submissions and counter submissions on the applications.

The Inspector-General of Police on Aug. 7 arraigned Bassam Abood, the Lebanese, as well as  Kelechi Madukanya, Amadi Richard and Enyi Christopher, Godwin Edet, Samuel Abeh, Chiwendu Ekete, John Abbah and Daniel Onuoha.

The accused allegedly conspired among themselves and obtained 5,055 bags valued at N550 million from Port Harcourt-based Cem Nig. Ltd between February and March.

They denied knowledge of the allegation as all of them earlier pleaded not guilty to the charge.

According to the charge, the accused persons are likely to serve up to three years in prison if found guilty, having contravened the provision of the advanced fee fraud and other frauds-related Act.

Earlier, Mr David Aliko, counsel to Abood, Madukanya and Richard, led other defendants’ counsel to urge the court to grant their clients bail.

According to the counsel, the charge filed against the accused is “frivolous and unsubstantiated’’.

They submitted that Cem Nig. Ltd, the nominal complainant could not link the applicants directly to the alleged missing goods.

Aliko and the other defendants’ counsel prayed the court to use its discretional powers to grant the accused persons a mitigated bail term, adding that  “they are prepared to stand justice’’.

The other defendants’ counsel, Clifford Eze, Vitalis Ero, Nwosu Nwosu and Maxwell Alaeto aligned themselves with Aliko’s affidavit in supporting their submissions.

However, Mr Samuel Malu, counsel to the prosecution in his counter affidavit, prayed the court to discountenance the applications.

“My Lord, investigation has yet to be completed as one of the accused persons is still at large. My Lord, I vehemently oppose the bail applications because the applicants have the capacity to interfere with the pending investigation,’’ Malu said. (NAN)


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