The Supreme Court on Friday gave nod to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate and prosecute Yanaty Petrochemical limited over N1, 840, 768, 720 petroleum subsidy fraud allegedly committed in March 2011.
The apex court in a unanimous judgment dismissed the appeal filed by the firm and added that the trial court unduly interferes with the statutory power of the EFCC which basic function is to investigate fraud.
It upheld the decision of Court of Appeal Abuja Division that the EFCC has the powers to investigate and prosecute the firm if it found that it committed the fraud and had a measure of discretion ‘‘to determine whether an investigation should continue, has been concluded or be re-opened.’’
Delivering the judgment prepared by Justice Olukayode Ariwoola but read by Justice Ajembi Eko the apex court agreed with the court of appeal that the Federal High Court was wrong to have stopped the anti- corruption agency from investigating the oil firm for the alleged fraud.
It ordered the oil marketing company, to submit itself for investigation by the EFFC over the alleged N1, 840, 768, 720 petroleum subsidy frauds.
EFCC was about rounding up its investigation based on the findings of the Special Fraud Unit, the House of Representatives Adhoc Committee on Petroleum (downstream) and the defunct Aig- Imokhoude-Led Committee, when the firm obtained an order stopping the commission on the ground that it had concluded its own investigation.
Dissatisfied with the judgment of the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, delivered on Monday, December 7, the oil marketing firm (Yanaty Petrochemical Limited) had filed the appeal at the Supreme Court.
It should be recalled that the EFCC had dragged the firm before the appellate court to set aside the judgment of Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja, that all investigations into the alleged petroleum subsidy fraud against the defendant had been concluded.
EFCC claimed that fraud was hath when Yanaty’s Managing Director, Elias Adeojo, was given approval by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPRA to import 30,000 tons of premium motor spirit, PMS under the Petroleum Support Scheme in the first quarter of 2011.
The firm claimed it imported 31, 256 .992 metric tons equivalent to 42, 171, 630 million litres in March, 2011 via MT Beaver.
Yanaty purportedly discharged the product at Lister Oil Jetty, Lagos, which is managed by Oando Marketing Plc.
As a result, Yanaty allegedly received the sum of N2, 731, 942, 103.73 as subsidy for purportedly discharging 42, 773, 279 million litres of PMS.
However, during investigation, Oando, operator of Lister oil jetty, disclosed that MT Beaver discharged only 10, 187.353 metric tons, which is equivalent to 13, 952.926 million litres) of PMS for Yanaty, as opposed to 31, 256.992 it claimed to have discharged.
Yanaty, therefore, allegedly received the sum of N1, 840,768,720 as unearned subsidy from the Federal Government.
Counsel to the defendant, Michael Anache, had filed a case against the PPRA and its Executive Secretary before Justice A. R. Muhammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja, seeking a declaration that all investigations against them by law enforcement agencies had been concluded.
Though the EFCC was not joined in the suit before Justice Muhammed, judgment was given in favour of Yanaty.
Also, in an effort to prevent further investigation into its activities, Yanaty, thereafter, filed another case against the EFCC before Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja, seeking an interpretation of the judgment delivered by Justice Muhammed.
It urged Justice Ademola to rely on the earlier judgment delivered by Justice Muhammed declaring that all investigations against it (Yanaty) had been concluded.
However, counsel to EFCC, Sylvanus Tahir, told the court that EFCC was not joined in the first suit before Justice Muhammed.
In his reaction to Friday’s judgment, Tahir further said: ‘‘The judgment today is a vindication of our appeal against the judgment of the lower court, which made an order restraining EFCC from further investigation and interrogation of Yanaty and its officials on the grounds that investigation against the company had been concluded.
‘‘We insisted that investigation was ongoing because the case is clear. EFCC started investigation against Yanaty in February, 2012.
But while it was subsisting, they surreptitiously filed a case against the PPRA and its former executive secretary, without joining EFCC.
The core issue in that case was whether the Advance Payment Guarantee, APG, issued by Sterling Bank Plc in favour of PPRA still subsisted or had expired. It has nothing to do with the fact that they had been investigated or that the issue had been concluded”.
Andrew Orolua, Abuja