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N29bn BGL Fraud: CJ Reassigns Case To New Judge

Albert-Okumagba-660x330The trial of the case of BGL Group for involvement in a N28.9bn fraud and malpractices, which led to the Security and Exchange Commission’s decision to expel the firm from capital market activities was temporarily halted Wednesday. Justice Ibrahim Auta, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, has recalled the case file of BGL Group from Justice Mohammed Yunusa, to whom it was assigned as a vacation judge.

As a result, Justice Yunusa was unable to deliver a ruling in the case, which had earlier been scheduled for Tuesday.

The suit was filed by BGL Group to challenge its expulsion from the Nigerian capital market by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The SEC had announced the expulsion of BGL from the Nigerian capital market after receiving over 40 petitions from aggrieved investors who claimed they had been defrauded by the company.
Albert Okumagba, BGL’s Group Managing Director, was also banned from operating as a Registered Sponsored Individual with SEC.

The case, which had been passed from Justice Saliu Saidu, to Justice Mohammed Idris and Justice Yunusa, may now be reassigned to another judge, who will hear and determine it.

In a petition to the National Judicial Council, SEC had, accused Justice Saidu of breaching the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers, when he restrained BGL’s expulsion from the capital market.
However, Justice Yunusa, who heard the case as a vacation judge, last week Thursday vacated Justice Saidu’s restraining order preventing BGL’s expulsion.

In his ruling, Yunusa had said he was convinced that BGL obtained the order from Justice Saidu by concealing material facts.

The judge also turned down BGL’s prayer to stay proceedings in the case pending the outcome of the petition against Justice Saidu.

He had subsequently adjourned till Tuesday to deliver a third ruling.
But at the Tuesday’s proceedings, Yunusa told the parties that he would not be able to deliver the ruling as he no longer had jurisdiction, since the Chief Judge had withdrawn it from him.
The court order restraining the Administrative Proceedings Committee of SEC from hearing the various petitions written against BGL by aggrieved investors, is however, still pending to be discharged.

The probe, which was scheduled for August 4 and 5, 2015, had been halted following an order on July 21, 2015 by Justice Idris for parties to maintain the status quo pending the determination of the main suit.

In its preliminary objection to the suit, SEC alleged that BGL is indebted to various capital market investors, including the Rivers State Ministry of Finance to the tune of N5.8bn as of June 2, 2015.
The alleged debt, according to SEC, represented return on investments at maturity which BGL allegedly failed to return to capital market investors.

SEC accused BGL Asset Management Limited of acting contrary to its mandate by “wholly transfering funds received from the investing public to BGL Plc without engaging in any form of Fund/Portfolio Management.”

SEC further claimed that as of December 2014, BGL had run at a loss running into over N48bn, adding that BGL had severe liquidity problems.

By Patrick Aigbokhan

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