Criminal Law

Osun monarch testifies against defendant in alleged N525m fraud

The trial of one Philemon Gora, Osigwe Edison, and Gracious Environ Workers Limited & Planners Nigeria Limited, before Justice S.O. Solebo of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos, for an alleged N525 million fraud, continued today, March 24, 2022, with their victim, a monarch from Osun State, His Royal Highness, Oba Jacob Esan testifying against them as the prosecution’s third witness.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had on December 6, 2021, arraigned the defendants on a 10-count charge bordering on stealing, conspiracy to obtain by false witness and obtaining by false pretence.

One of the counts reads: “Philemon Ibrahim Gora, Osigwe Tobechukwu Edison and Gracious Environ Workers Limited & Planners Nigeria Limited, sometime in 2021, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court ,and with intent to defraud ,did conspire amongst yourselves to steal the total sum of N525,000,000 (Five Hundred and Twenty-five Million Naira) property of HRH Jacob Esan.”

Another count reads: “Philemon Ibrahim Gora, Osigwe Tobechukwu Edison and Gracious Environ Workers Limited & Planners Nigeria Limited, sometime in 2021, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, dishonesty converted to your own use the total sum of N300,000,000 (Three Hundred Million Naira) property of Liberitas Plc.”

The defendants are further accused of defrauding Mabilla Resource Ltd. of the sum of N140million, and Covidol Traders, UAE of the sum of N85million.

They pleaded “not guilty” to the charges.

Gora who is being prosecuted by the EFCC at a Federal Capital Territory, FCT High Court, Abuja for another alleged fraud, was arrested by the EFCC in July 2021, following the petition against him.

He allegedly obtained the sum of N525 million from the traditional ruler, with the assurance of helping him convert it to United Arab Emirate, UAE, Dirham; but, he never did, and instead, converted the money to his personal use.

At today’s proceeding, the Kabiyesi, who was led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, informed the Court that previously he was “an investment banker and currently an entrepreneur”.

He further testified that he founded a number of companies including Liberitas Plc, which according to him was established in 2017 “to  provide low cost housing in Nigeria”.

He testified that Mabilla Resource Ltd was part of a group of companies that he worked with to deliver on regenerating the Nigerian economy. He also identified Covidol Traders, UAE.

“I know them, and I worked with them as part of a group of companies I work with, with which we have strategic partnership to deliver on regenerating this country’s potential,” he said.

Testifying further, he said, his company had entered into a strategic partnership with FORSA, a company in South Africa, which deals in the use of formworks to build three-bedroom flats in two to three days. He said the aim was to address the housing problems in the country.

He testified that he had a meeting with the Osun State governor to assist in using the technology to construct 7,200 housing units.

He said: “We entered into an  MoU with the Osun State Property Development Commission.

“Subsequently, I needed to purchase the formworks and the invoice was raised for that.

“I instructed that the invoice be paid for.

“So I delegated that they should source for the currency to enable us pay for the invoice so that we can start development.”

According to him, subsequently, in sourcing for the currency, Liberitas, Covidol and Mabilla transferred a total sum of N525 million to Gracious Environ Workers Limited & Planners Nigeria Limited.

He said: “However, I now know from investigation that Philemon Gora conspired with some other persons known and unknown to me now, to collect and represent that they can provide the equivalent of the money.

“But instead, as I speak, my lord, we have not received value in whatever form.”

He alleged that Gora merely squandered the money to personal use.

The case has been adjourned till May 9 to 13, 2022 for continuation of trial.

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