Wednesday, January 27, 2016 11:41 pm
Justice Oluwatoyin Ipaye of the Lagos State High Court, Ikeja on Wednesday warned a Lagos hotelier, Augunos Okoro, standing trial for duping a German businessman the sum of $330,000 against acts and devices aimed at stalling his trial.
Okoro, whose trial ought to resume on Wednesday after several years of adjournments and re-arraignments, slumped in court immediately his application for adjournment of proceedings was dismissed by Justice Ipaye.
Okoro’s counsel, Olalekan Ojo had earlier made two prayers. First was for his appearance in the matter and the other for the court to grant him a short adjournment to enable him study the case, since he was coming newly in the matter, but Justice Ipaye dismissed the application and asked the prosecution to go on with the trial.
Prosecution counsel, Adebisi Adeniyi, called his witness: Rapheal Onwuzurigbo, a retired Assistant Superintendent of Police attached to the Forensic Analysis Unit.
After the witness had finished his introduction and was about to go into the matter, Okoro abruptly slumped and thereby compelled the court to adjourn the matter to 24 and 25 February, 2016.
While adjourning the matter, Justice Ipaye warned that this kind of stunt will no longer be tolerated anymore in her court.
It would be recalled that Okoro, who is the proprietor of Lagos York Hotels, was initially arraigned on May 30, 2003 before Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, and had pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The case was re-assigned to Justice Joseph Oyewole sometime in 2004. His trial before Justice Oyewole was stalled as a result of his alleged-ill health.
However, following the elevation of Oyewole to the Appeal court, the matter was transferred to Justice Ipaye which necessitated the defendant to be re-arraigned.
On Monday, the EFCC Counsel, Taiwo Ogunleye, asked the court to order Okoro, who was assisted into the dock, due to his alleged failing health, to re-take his plea.
Ogunleye said that Okoro conspired with the duo of Morris Ibekwe (now deceased) and Chief E.A. Okoro (still at large), to commit the offences between October and November, 1992.
According to her, Okoro obtained the money from the complainant, one Klaus Munch and his firm, System Organisation of Germany.
The prosecutor said that Okoro claimed that the money was for sundry payments to various government officials to facilitate the award of a $30-million contract to the company. According to her, Okoro allegedly perpetrated the fraud by forging the seal, stamps and other documents of various Federal Government agencies.