Court dismisses BGL applications

Albert Okumagba

…Definite hearing commences October 2

A Wuse Magistrate Court in Abuja has dismissed all applications brought before it by BGL Plc and her subsidiaries objecting to their trial before the court.

Chief Magistrate, Chinyere Nweoachenuwho dismissed the application, fixed definite hearing of the case for Wednesday October 2, 2018.

In her ruling on the applications, Magistrate Nweoachenu stated that ongoing civil matters in another court does not affect the hearing of the criminal case before the Magistrate Court.

According to her “this matter is a criminal one while the one before the Federal High Court is a civil case. Also, none of the cases in the Federal High Court are between same parties in this case. In this case, the Commissioner of Police is a party, but he is not a party in the suit in the Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal.

Sections 304 and 305 of the Investments and Securities Act 2007 states that where in the course of its investigation, the Commission discovers evidence of possible criminality, the Commission shall be obliged to pass such information to the appropriate criminal prosecuting authorities, such as, the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Attorney-General of a State and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

It further states that where an offence under this Act has been committed by a company, every person who at the time the offence was committed was in charge of, and was responsible to, the company for the conduct of the business of the company, as well as the company, shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against. The Companies and their officials were charged before the court on allegations of criminal conspiracy, breach of trust and cheating contrary to Section 936 (312) (322) (323) of the Penal Code.

The Chief Magistrate stated that the First Information Report (FIR) in law does not constitute evidence, therefore it would be premature for the court to establish a prima facie case as evidence has not been taken. She therefore dismissed all three applications for lack of merit.

BGL Plc and her subsidiaries had filed 4 different applications against their trial which centered on the FIR before the court and jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter.

Recall that top officials of BGL Group were on September 28, 2018 arraigned before the Chief Magistrate Court, Zone 6, Abuja on charges of criminal conspiracy, breach of trust and cheating.

Those arraigned included the Deputy Managing Director of the Company, ChibunduEdozie, who was docked along with three other accused for allegedly conspiring with some other staff of BGL to commit the offences against the investing public.

The Managing Director of the company, Albert Okumagba, was not in court and was not represented.

They were arraigned pursuant to a petition filed by Mahmoud Usman, Ann Orsule, Sylvanus Ghasarah, EnoEfanga, UN Staff Thrift Credit Cooperative Society of Anambra State (Abuja office) and AdejokeAtte, among others against them before the Securities and Exchange Commission.

However, Mr. Edozie was granted bail in the sum of N1million, with one surety in the like sum who should not be less than a Level 12 officer and resident in Abuja.

Following the arraignment, Chief Magistrate Chinyere Nwecheonwu adjourned the hearing to November 6.

In exercising its regulatory responsibility in the capital market as enshrined in the Investment and Securities Act, ISA, the SEC, through its Administrative Proceedings Committee, APC in May 2016 banned Mr. Okumagba, BGL Managing Director and his deputy, Mr Edozie, from participating in capital market activities for 20 years.

The commission also ordered Mr. Okumugba’s companies to refund to investors over N2 billion for market infractions contrary to Sections 96, 312, 322 and 323 of the Penal Code Law, Chapter 89.

The ban followed complaints by investors against Mr. Okumagba and his company over failure, refusal and or/neglect to liquidate their investments in both the Guaranteed Consolidated dated notes and Guaranteed Premium Notes, among others.

The SEC in a bid to obtain justice for the complainants and grant all parties fair hearing, presented the matter before its APC, which sat and decided on the matter.

“During the proceedings testimonies and documentary evidence were tendered by various parties and upon conclusion of the proceedings its APC arrived at a decision which has been approved by the relevant authority,” SEC stated.

The APC decided that by their actions and/or omissions BGL Securities Ltd, BGL Asset Management Ltd., Messrs. Okumagba, Edozie and other respondents engaged in acts capable of adversely affecting investors’ confidence in the capital market.

Besides, the APC decided that the registration of BGL Securities and BGL Assets Management be cancelled, while Messrs. Okumagba and Edozien be banned from capital market operations for a period of 20 years.

It stated further that the two companies would also pay a fine of N25 million for breaching Rule 1(iii) of the Code of Conduct for capital market operators.

Also banned were Peter Adebola and Ashley Osuzoka for five and four years respectively.

The APC also imposed fines of N100, 000 each on the culprits, for breach of the code of conduct for capital market operators and their employees, in addition to an order on the companies to refund N24.03 million to the National Open University Staff Cooperative Multipurpose Society.

Others sanctioned included Ande Ewubare, Victor Inyang, Hilary Eludu, Ehime Alofoje, and Ofem Omni, who were banned for two years and fined N100,000 each, while Nkechi Azubike, Adekunle Alli, Mohan Lalchandani, Anthony Nwozor and Oluwo Oluwale, who were banned for one year and fined N100,000 each.  (The Nation)

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