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N170million: Citadel Director, Joseph Responds To Allegations Made By Zinox Chairman, Stan Ekeh, In Ongoing Trial

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Joseph insisted that the protracted legal battle between him and Zinox Group Chairman and others was not borne out of blackmail but facts and truth.

The Managing Director of Citadel Oracle Concepts Limited, Benjamin Joseph, has responded to some statements made by the Chairman, Zinox Group, Leo Stan Ekeh, while asserting that Ekeh has a case to answer in the N170.3million contract fraud.

Joseph insisted that the protracted legal battle between him and Zinox Group Chairman and others was not borne out of blackmail but facts and truth.

Addressing journalists in Abuja on Monday, Joseph accused Mr Ekeh and Zinox Group of lying by denying any knowledge and their involvement in the fraud.

The Ibadan-based ICT retail businessman cited several instances in which Mr Ekeh, his wife, Chioma, and some top officials of Zinox Group and its affiliate, Technology Distribution Limited were directly and indirectly linked with crime.

He also released documents from the Force Criminal Investigation Department ( FCID) report No CR: 3000/X//FHQ/ABJ/SEB /VOL41 dated 7th April 2015 signed by one CSP Olayinka Ajeigbe indicting Leo Stan Ekeh and other suspects and recommended their prosecution.

He said although he had always resisted the temptation of joining issues with Ekeh over the issue, rather preferring to follow the court process to get justice, he decided to respond to recent accusations by the Zinox Group Chairman that his quest for justice was a campaign to blackmail him for purposes of extorting money from him.

According to him “We are compelled to call this briefing following a series of concocted lies and distorted facts sponsored in the media by the Chairman of Zinox Group, Leo Stan Ekeh, and his agents.

“Ordinarily, I have always resisted the temptation of joining issues with Mr Ekeh and Zinox in the media over this matter that has lingered for over eight years. I chose to allow the wheel of justice, which often grinds slowly, to take its course through the court process, though the experience so far has been terribly frustrating. We will not give up, because of our deep conviction that the triumph of falsehood over truth, or darkness over light, is only temporary. At the fullness of time, we know truth and light will ultimately prevail.”

On how the fraud was uncovered, Joseph said in July 2013, his company’s Auditor was in FIRS office in Ibadan to file the annual audited account when he was confronted with information about possible under-declaration of the company’s turnover to evade tax returns from a contract by FIRS.

“On investigation, we discovered that it was indeed a fraud committed by a syndicate against his company, which involved the transfer of money through a fictitious account in Access Bank Plc, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos using the confidential information used in opening its corporate bank account in 2008 ”

He said his lawyers, Afe Babalola, SAN, wrote to the suspects after findings from preliminary investigations but Mr Ekeh, through a representative of the fraud syndicate, Onny Igbokwe, made monetary offers to settle the issue.

Findings from detailed investigations, Joseph said, revealed that apart from the syndicate hijacking the contract previously awarded to his company and executing using his company’s name without consent and knowledge, they connived with Access Bank officials to use the corporate information, including a Board of Directors resolution dated 18th December 2012, which they forged, including his signature, and used to open the fake account through which the proceeds of the fraud were paid.

He said Ekeh’s wife, Chioma, was the one who presided over the distribution of the funds to members of the syndicate and ran the account into debit, deliberately to ensure the dead account would not be traced.

In October 2013, Joseph said a petition was sent to the Police Special Fraud Unit in Lagos against Access Bank Plc for unlawful opening of the fake account in his company’s name, resulting in the arrest and detention of all the suspects and documents used to open the forged account recovered.

Although he said suspects volunteered written statements owing up to the crime, the police refused to carry out the recommendation containing its investigation report since 2014 for them to be arraigned and prosecuted.

Joseph accused the former DIG FCIID, Solomon Arase, who later became the IGP, and of using his positions to shield the suspects and frustrate efforts to get the police to prosecute them.

“The police and other law enforcement agencies complicit in the whole saga to shield the rich connected thief by all means against innocent Nigerians are the reasons Mr Ekeh and other members of the syndicate are so bold to keep dishing out lies to the public with impunity, knowing that nothing will happen,” Joseph said.

Despite a civil suit No. LD/4335/2014 filed by his company at the Lagos State High Court, Igbosere against the suspects, he said the suspects deployed all sorts of tricks to frustrate the case, which has not been more than eight years later.

In October 2016, he said the suspects filed application urging the court to dismiss the case against them, but he said the then presiding Judge, Justice Femi Adeniyi on May 2, 2017 dismissed all their preliminary objections, insisting they have a case to answer.

On assumption of office as IGP in 2055, Joseph said he petitioned IGP Arase again to remind him of the need to release the case file for the prosecution of the suspects.

But rather than do so, the he said Arase prior to his exit from office in 2016 approved his trial on a one-count charge of false petitioning of the police.

He said the trial had been ongoing against him over the last six years, until the AGF Abubakar Malami intervened and ordered the takeover of the prosecution from the police by the DPP.

On the N20 million Ekeh said the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Jabi, Abuja presided over by Justice Danlami Senchi imposed on Joseph as fine, the businessman described the court process that resulted in the fine as “a deliberate mischief by the EFCC set up to fail,”

He said following his arraignment by the police over the “fanthom charge”, he wrote to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who directed the EFCC to investigate the matter.

Although the anti-graft agency investigated and confirmed the findings of the police investigation indicting all the eight suspects, including Ekeh and his wife, they to arraign and try only two of them, Princess Kama and Onny Igbokwe, using a non-existing evidence.

“Rather than arraign and charge all eight suspects, EFCC prosecutor chose to embark on a wild goose chase and a vain journey of non-diligent prosecution of just two of them. The EFCC abandoned volumes of evidence submitted to it, including how the fraud was committed using a Board resolution purportedly issued and signed by me, dated December 18, 2012.

“In charging the two suspects, the EFCC prosecutor charged them based on a non-existing document dated December 14, 2012.

“All efforts, including at least eight letters to EFCC from my company and lawyers to get the prosecutor to correct the discrepancy failed. Yet, the compromised EFCC officials wanted me to destroy my case by testify over a wrong document concocted to water down the case. I refused, because the charge against the suspects was not based on the evidence submitted in my petition. As such the prosecution was deliberately set up by EFCC to fail.

 

“As expected, Justice Danlami Senchi of the FCT High Court, Jabi capitalised on the deliberate mischief by the EFCC to dismiss the case and discharge and acquit the suspects after seriously reprimanding the prosecutor for failure to bring the right case before the court, “he said.

Joseph also accused Ekeh of lying after he denied that there was an ongoing prosecution by the Federal Government against him, his wife and senior officials of Zinox Group.

SaharaReporters had reported how Femi Falana, SAN, filed a 17-count charge in September 9, 2022 at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Gwagwalada by Joseph argued that if there was ongoing prosecution against them over the matter, why did they file an application for their defence on October 6,2022.

“The question is if there was no ongoing prosecution in court anywhere against them for the crime; why are they filing for their defence?

“Again, they claimed the AGF reversed his previous directive to the DPP to take over my illegal trial by the police. This is another self-serving lie. Why would the AGF give a fiat to a Senior lawyer to prosecute criminals based on my complaint and turn around to approve that the police should prosecute me?

“When the AGF gave the directive to the DPP to take over the case from the police, he did so through a letter he personally signed and addressed to the court.

“But at the last sitting of the court, during which it was expected the AGF would give the legal opinion to terminate the case against me, the court was shocked to find the police prosecutor, Simon Lough, show up without the legal advice of the AGF nor the appearance of State Counsel from the office of the AGF.

“The reaction by the court was surprising, because having handed the case file to the DPP for almost a year, the police had no business defying the subsisting order of the AGF, by allowing its prosecutor to attempt to again continue with the illegal trial.” Joseph said.

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