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Friday, March 03, 2017

Zinox v Ben Joseph: Police to continue prosecution of alleged blackmailer

The Nigerian Police is to continue the prosecution of a case involving one Benjamin Joseph, an Enugu indigene and acclaimed Managing Director of an Ibadan-based company, Citadel Oracle Concepts Ltd, reports ITRealms.

Joseph, ITRealms gathered, allegedly resorted to blackmail and threats against the Chairman, Zinox Technologies, Leo Stan Ekeh and other senior management staff, including Mrs. Chioma Ekeh, Barr. Chris Eze Ozims and Mrs. Folashade Oyebode – of sister company, Technology Distributions Ltd (TD).

According to the verdict delivered by the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, Apo, Abuja at the resumed hearing on February 28th, 2017.

ITRealms recalls that Joseph is currently standing trial before the court on a one-count charge of “false petitioning” with intention of misleading the Police over a case of identity theft, impersonation and criminal conversion of contract after accusing Technology Distributions of conspiring with the other officials to hijack a contract for the supply of HP laptops awarded by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and defrauding the Federal Government.

Interestingly, detailed investigations by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which conducted searches at the FIRS office, and the Special Fraud Unit (SFU) of the Nigerian Police confirmed that the laptops were indeed supplied and receipted by the FIRS and their serial numbers and actual users noted.

Joseph had subsequently embarked on a solo media campaign on sensational online platform, Premium Times, after several credible print and online media who investigated his claims and found them to be unfounded refused to publish.

At the resumed hearing, Joseph’s defence team led by K.S. Olutekumi had opposed the appearance of the Prosecution counsel Simon Lough on the ground that the Attorney General’s office had taken over the prosecution at the last adjourned date of December 7th 2016.

The Prosecution Counsel, citing the Supreme Court decision in Marcel Nnakwe Vs. The State (2013) 18 NWLR, argued that a party has the absolute right to choose the counsel to represent it and that, since the case was instituted by the Inspector General of Police (IGP), the IGP can choose its counsel. The prosecutor further informed the court that he was in possession of a letter by the Attorney General to the IGP informing the police to continue with the prosecution of the accused person, Mr. Joseph. 

In a brief ruling, the Judge, U.P. Kekemeke of Court 14 FCT, upheld the submissions of the Police Prosecutor, especially on the strength of the letter of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice of the Federation  to the Inspector-General of Police to continue with the prosecution. The honourable judge stated that the accused person cannot choose his prosecutor. He finally ordered a continuation of trial.

Mr. Joseph’s prosecution had risen from a business transaction between Citadel Oracle Concept Limited and their appointed representatives, Princess Kama and Chief Onny Igbokwe, when they won a contract like several companies for the supply of HP laptops to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

Having no funds to execute the contract, his representatives had approached TD, an authorized HP distributor and the biggest ICT distributor in Sub-Saharan Africa, to supply them the laptops on credit pending payment by FIRS. In view of previous bad experience and in order to avoid exposing the business to bad loans, TD had nominated its staff – Mr. Chris Eze Ozims and Mrs. Shade Oyebode – to be signatories to an account opened for the purpose of disbursement of funds as regards the contract, solely as security for the laptops supplied on credit.  Upon payment of the sum for the contract, TD had gone ahead to deduct the invoiced sum of the supplied laptops and had its staff resign as signatories to the account.

After a disagreement between Joseph and his representatives over the sharing of the proceeds and having allegedly failed with threats and blackmail attempts against the officials of Zinox and TD, with a view to extortion, Mr. Joseph had petitioned the Police authorities that his signature was forged to execute the contract.

Since the crux of the matter was the denial by Mr. Joseph of not signing the Board Resolution to open the account with which the FIRS remitted payment for the supplied HP laptops, of which Mr. Ozims and Mrs. Oyebode were signatories on behalf of TD, the Police sent the documents for forensic analysis to determine its veracity. The evidence proved that the documents were not forged, and were actually signed by him. Hence, the warrants of arrest the Police had issued against Mr. Ozims (a First Class lawyer and Company Secretary of TD) and Mrs. Oyebode (a Chartered Accountant and Executive Director of TD) based on Joseph’s complaints were made on misleading information and ought not to have been issued.

Based on the discovery that the said documents were not forged and the computers were duly delivered to FIRS, the Police charged Mr. Joseph to court with Charge Number CR/216/16 before the FCT High Court, Abuja.

Under cross examination at the resumed hearing, the Prosecution Witness 1, Princess Kama, reaffirmed that the defendant accompanied her to submit the account opening package including the board resolution at the Garki II branch of Access Bank Plc. She stated that the defendant was to have the benefit of one lot which is N5.7m but later insisted on the profits and capital of the entire contract award as against their earlier agreement. She informed the court that she is not a director or shareholder of Citadel Oracle Concepts Ltd but had an authority letter to act for the company in respect of the award with FIRS.

In an earlier hearing of the case before the Court, Princess who said she refused to marry Joseph over 12 years ago when he proposed to her when they were worshipping in same church, also confirmed that she has been helping Joseph bid for contracts because of her expertise. She had, therefore, expressed her pain and disappointment about Joseph’s continued blackmail of the officers of Technology Distributions, knowing very well that without the support of TD, they wouldn’t have executed the contract. More bewildering is his continued media campaign against Zinox Technologies Limited and its Chairman, Leo Stan Ekeh, neither of whom was in any way connected with the transaction leading to the proceedings.

The trial has been adjourned to the April 27th 2017 for continuation.


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