Fed Govt arraigns airline, workers over N318m ‘theft

THE Federal Government has arraigned four Emirates Airlines workers at the Federal High Court in Lagos over alleged theft of $1.6 million (N318 million).

Abayomi Abiola, Isiaka Adedeji, Awonubi Abayomi and George Ikpekhia were arraigned along with Emirates Airlines, Pathfinders International Ltd and Nigeria Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Limited before Justice Mohammed Idris.

They were charged with 11 counts of stealing, fraud, obtaining money under false pretence, willful destruction of evidence and failure to report an illegal international fund transfer.

According to the prosecution, the accused persons, on December 19, 2007 at the Murtala Muhammad International Airport, Lagos, stole four bags tagged EK 428682, EK 428683, EK 650162 and EK 650161.

The bags, it said, contained $1.6 million belonging to Prince Chu Ikem Orji, which the defendants allegedly promised to keep intact for onward delivery to him at Guangzhou, China.

They were also alleged to have conspired to defraud the victim by willfully destroying the evidence through deletion of baggage details in the airline’s computer system with intent to prevent it from being used in evidence.

The prosecution said the alleged offences contravene sections 516, 390 (0), 442, 421, 419, 123, of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C38 and 15 (2), (b) and (3) of the Money Laundry Act, Cap. N30, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

The defendants pleaded not guilty.

Prosecution counsel Mr. O. S. Michael urged the court to remand them in prison before hearing of their bail applications, but the defendants’ lawyer Chief Awah Kalu (SAN) said they were granted bail by another judge of the court, Justice Okon Abang, when they were first arraigned.

Michael said the case before Justice Abang was different from the new amended charges.

But Justice Idris granted the defendants bail for N5 million with one surety each, who must have landed property within the court’s jurisdiction.

The defendants must deposit their international passports with the court’s Deputy Chief Registrar, the judge said.

He adjourned till May 25 for trial.

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