A British chartered accountant, Deepak Khilnani, charged before a Lagos High Court over an $8.8m fraud, has asked the court to dismiss the allegation for lack of jurisdiction. Khilnani made the request on Wednesday in a preliminary notice of objection filed by his counsel, Mr. Kayode Ajekigbe, before Justice Oluwatoyin Ipaye.
Khilnani and an alleged accomplice, Dr. Sushil Chandra, were charged to court by the Lagos State Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on a four-count charge of conspiracy, cheating, stealing and false representation.
The DPP had charged them for allegedly duping their Nigerian partner, Green Fuels Limited, of a sum of $8.8 million in 2008.
The prosecution alleged that they “fraudulently tricked Green Fuels Limited to pay greater sum for machinery purchased from Gentec Limited than it would have paid for such machinery”.
They were also accused of making false statement to the Corporate Affairs Commission in order to facilitate the fraud.
Ipaye had fixed today for their arraignment following the failure of their counsel to produce them in court on July 31.
But at the resumption of proceedings, the Director of the DPP, Mrs. Idowu Alakija, told the court of the prosecution’s intention to amend the proof of evidence by substitution.
Alakija further informed the court that the prosecution had received information from the Police that they had carried out further investigation on the matter which might be useful to the case.
She also confirmed that the preliminary notice of objection was served on the prosecution on August 11.
The DPP therefore asked the court for an adjournment to respond to the application, hear from the police and also amend the proof of evidence.
Responding, Ajekigbe said the defence had filed a preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the charge.
He said: “The Information dated April 30 has breached a cardinal rule of drafting charges in that the charges do not contain the essential ingredients of the offences charged.
“The proofs of evidence filed by the prosecution do not disclose the offences alleged against the applicants in counts 2,3 and 4 of the criminal charge.
“The initiation of the Information by the Office of the Attorney-General of Lagos State was done without regard to public interest, interest of justice and the need to prevent abuse of legal process.”
According to him, the charge constitutes an abuse of the process of the court because it attempts to criminalise a matter bordering on contractual arrangement.
Ajekigbe further argued that the charge was fundamentally defective in the sense that the alleged offences contained therein were charged under a repealed and non-existent law.
On the failure of the accused persons to appear in court, he argued that there was nothing in the judicial law that made it mandatory for them to be in court for the hearing of the application.
Following their submissions, the judge adjourned the matter till November 10 for hearing of the application