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Zinox Group Chairman, Ekeh Denies Defrauding Oyo-based ICT Firm, Citadel Oracle, Of N170Million, Alleges Blackmail

Zinox Group Chairman, Ekeh Denies Defrauding Oyo-based ICT Firm, Citadel Oracle, Of N170Million, Alleges Blackmail
October 5, 2022

The 17 counts filed border on conspiracy, fraud and forgery.

The Chairman of Zinox Group, Leonard Stanley Ekeh, has denied defrauding Benjamin Joseph, owner of Citadel Oracle Concepts Limited, an Ibadan-based ICT retail firm.

SaharaReporters recently reported how the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice filed a suit against Ekeh, his wife, Chioma, and 11 others over alleged N170.3 million contract fraud.

The 17 counts filed border on conspiracy, fraud and forgery.

A court document with suit No. FCT/HC/CR/469/2022 obtained by SaharaReporters was filed on September 9, 2022, before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory by the human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) following the approval of the fiat to prosecute the suspects.

Joseph had in 2013 petitioned the police to complain about the fraud uncovered against his company allegedly perpetrated by the suspects.

He said the fraud involved a N170.3 million contract for the supply of computer systems awarded by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to his company in 2012, which was hijacked by the suspects and executed using his company’s name without his knowledge and consent.

The businessman also alleged that the suspects also conspired to forge his signature on a fake Board of Directors resolution used to facilitate the opening of a fictitious account No. 0059202675 with Access Bank PLC for the payment of the proceeds of the fraud.

Although investigations by the Special Fraud Unit (SFU) of the Nigeria Police Force were concluded in 2014, Joseph said a prima facie case was established against the suspects but that the police refused to prosecute them.

Initial investigations by the SFU of the Federal Criminal Investigations Department (FCID) indicted eight persons, but Falana listed 11 suspects in the charge sheet accompanying the application seen by our reporter on Thursday in Abuja.

However, in a letter to the AGF confirming the filing of the charge, Falana said findings by his chambers revealed that at least 13 persons were found to have played various roles in the alleged fraud in 2012.

Joseph had accused the suspects of deploying all sorts of devious means, including the manipulation of the courts, the police and anti-graft agencies to evade trial.

Reacting to the report, Ekeh through his lawyer, Matthew Burkaa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), accused the businessman of blackmail.

The statement reads in part, “We act for Mr. Leo Stan Ekeh, Technology Distributions Limited (TD) and its staff Chioma Ekeh, Chris Eze Ozims, Oyebode Folashade and Charles Adigwe (hereinafter referred to collectively or individually as “Our Clients”).

‘‘Our Clients have drawn our attention to several online publications, containing some false, distorted and damaging contents in the SAHARA REPORTERS of October 2, 2022 titled: ZINOX GROUP CHAIRMAN, WIFE, 11 OTHERS FACE TRIAL IN NIGERIAN COURT OVER ALLEGED N170M CONTRACT FRAUD NINE YEARS AFTER. A Similar story with the same content was published in OPERA NEWS on 29th September, 2022, and in the NATIONAL WAVES on 29th September 2022 titled: LEO STAN EKEH’S ALLEGED N170.3M FRAUD SCANDAL RESURFACES; and also in THE NEWS MATRICS (Online News Paper Publication) published on the 30th September 2022 titled: FG TO PROSECUTE ZINOX BOSS, EKEH, WIFE OVER ALLEGED N170.3M FRAUD. THE WITNESS (online newspaper) of September 29, 2022, also carried the story.

“Copies of these online publications have gone viral on social media and have been read globally by different persons and diverse groups, who have been worried by the content of the publication and have continued to bombard our Clients with calls expressing their utter shock and consternation at the content of the publications.

‘‘First of all, of great concern, is how a straightforward business transaction between two corporate entities, Technology Distributions Limited (TD) and Citadel Oracle Concepts Limited has been skewed in a manner to give the erroneous impression that a personal business was transacted by individuals, to wit: Mr. Leo Stan Ekeh, his wife and his named staff with one Mr. Benjamin Joseph. Such personalisation (as carried by the publications) was apparently to achieve an ulterior motive to blackmail, drag, embarrass, and bring down the persons so named in the publication, while the author of the publications appears as a victim and continues to bask in vain glory.”

According to the lawyer, all the reports that followed investigations done by various authorities including the Nigeria Police Force, Special Fraud Unit (SFU) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) revealed that Ekeh and Zinox Technologies Limited are not connected in any way to the allegations that formed the basis of the allegations.

“In fact, in all the investigations by the Nigerian Police and the EFCC, Mr Leo Stan Ekeh, Technology Distributions Limited (TD) and its staff, Mrs. Chioma Ekeh, Mr. Chris Eze Ozims, Mrs. Folashade Oyebode, and Mr. Charles Adigwe have been formally and severally vindicated and absolved of any wrong-doing as the entire allegations were found to be false.

“On the contrary, the mastermind of all the allegations, a certain Mr. Benjamin Joseph, is presently standing trial in Court for forwarding false allegations via a Petition containing the very allegations that formed the basis of the referenced publications to the Federal Government of Nigeria. That Charge is still pending in Court.

“The Criminal Charge will be coming up before His Lordship, the Hon. Justice U.P. Kekemeke of the FCT, High Court, Abuja on the 3rd day of November 2022 for the defence of Mr. Benjamin Joseph whose “No Case Submission” had been dismissed by the Court, indicating that he has a case to answer. The Federal Government has also written letters through the Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation (DPPF) and the Nigerian Police Force for the continuation of the said prosecution. The letters are dated 6th of June, 2022 and 26th September, 2022.

‘‘It is therefore appalling to our Clients to read, via the above publications, that a Charge had been filed against them by a private law firm associated with Mr. Benjamin Joseph because, they (our Clients) had by a letter dated 19th November, 2018 drawn the attention of the Honourable, the Attorney General of the Federation to the fact that, it was apparent that the Law firm of FALANA &FALANA was acting on the instructions of Mr. Benjamin Joseph, the MD of Citadel Oracle Concepts Limited, who is the Defendant standing trial in Charge No: CR/216/2016.

‘‘More shocking to our Clients is the fact that the Nominal Complainant (Benjamin Joseph) in Charge No: FCT/HC/CR/469/2022 which formed the basis of the above online publications, is the Defendant in Charge No: CR/216/2016 and the subject matter in Charge No: FCT/HC/CR/469/2022 is the very basis for the prosecution of Mr. Benjamin Joseph in Charge No: CR/216/2016.

‘‘It is also imperative to point out that the High Court of the FCT, Per D.Z Senchi J. (as he then was) in Charge No: FCT/HC/CR/244/2018 dismissed as “false petitioning” the very allegations forming the basis of the new charges filed by FALANA & FALANA’S Chambers, and indicted the said Benjamin Joseph for forwarding false information to the Nigerian Police.

“The court went ahead to slam a fine of N20million against him for writing a Petition containing falsehood against our Clients and to serve as a deterrent to others who might want to mislead security agencies by forwarding false complaints against innocent Nigerians. The said Judgment is dated the 24th day of February, 2021.

“In fact, Chioma Ekeh and Chris Eze Ozims, who are also supposedly charged in the referred charge, were prosecution witnesses against Benjamin Joseph in the two previously filed charges. So, the present Charge includes the very persons who had been discharged and acquitted on the same set of facts and in whose favour there is a subsisting Judgment.”