A Lagos-based businessman, Alex Ikpeme, on Thursday denied an allegation that he fraudulently converted N61.5 million belonging to Cochedes Agro Industries Ltd., a subsidiary of Coscharis Group, to his own use.
Ikpeme, 48, made the denial through his counsel, Mr Olalekan Ojo, before Justice Lateefat Okunnu of a Lagos High Court in Ikeja.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had dragged Ikpeme, alongside his company, Annygral Consultants Ltd., before the court on an eight-count charge bordering on stealing by fraudulent conversion.
The EFCC alleged that Ikpeme, in Nov. 2008, entered a business arrangement with Coscharis Group to help him with the supply of 15 Land Rover vehicles to the Ministry of Defence.
According to the anti-graft agency, Coscharis had granted the defendant loans to facilitate the deal in the belief that the money (N61.5 million) would be paid into their account.
The EFCC alleged that Ikpeme received the money from the Central Bank of Nigeria in Nov. 2010 but failed to make any refund to Coscharis
At the resumption of the case on Thursday, Ojo, while cross-examining a prosecution witness, Mr Sunday Ofenimu, told the court that the EFCC had failed to establish a charge of stealing against his client.
He said the investigations made by Ofenimu, an EFCC investigative officer, did not incriminate the defendant in any way.
Ojo told the court that the defendant refused to pay the complainant (Coscharis Group) because of a breach in the contract agreement.
He said:”There is no evidence to show that the vehicles were supplied by Coscharis Group.
“There was no allegation of stealing in the statements made by officials of the company to the EFCC”.
Ojo argued that the execution of the contract preceded the date on the Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) allegedly signed by both parties.
He said the cheques issued by the CBN for payment on behalf of the Ministry of Defence were in favour of the defendant.
“It was not stated anywhere that the money belonged to Coscharis Group”, Ojo said.
He maintained that the issue before the court was a contractual dispute and not a criminal charge as being alleged by the EFCC.
NAN reports that the matter was adjourned to March 1 for continuation of trial.