A Nigerian man, Dickson NonsoOnuchukwu has dragged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Inspector-General of Police (IG) and the Lagos Police Commissioner to court for alleged defamation of character, harassment and unlawful detention.
Onuchukwu, who had been arrested several times by the security agencies, was recently paraded by the EFCC together with one Augustine Emenike and a Russian, Max Lobaty as the faces behind Swiss Golden International Company.
The commission, which described the online gold networking business as a ponzi scheme, had declared on all its social media handles that the sum of N216 million was recovered from the company following petitions by some Kano residents that they were scammed of their money.
But in a twist of events, Onuchukwu, who said he was first arrested by the EFCC in November at his office (Swiss Golden Africa) in Ikeja, said he had provided documentary evidence to the agency that he was not an affiliate of Swiss Golden International.
He explained that he was also a customer like those complaining that they were defrauded, adding that the difference was that he took the business seriously and had been networking, growing in it.
Onuchukwu, who is seeking a billion naira as damages from the security agencies, said he was harassed, arrested and unlawfully detained by operatives of the Federal Criminal Investigation and Intelligence (FCIID), Alagbon, Ikoyi, between March 5-6th,2018 at Area F Ikeja before taken to Alagbon where he bailed himself; the EFCC kano office from November 6 to 17, last year, as well as Zone 2 onikan Lagos on December 4.
According to him, the harassment and arrests violated his rights under Sections 34(1), 35(1) and 41(1) of the 1999 constitution as amended.
Through his counsel, Anthony Omaghomi, Onuchukwu in suit FHCL/CS/679/18 prayed a Federal High Court in Lagos to declare the harassment and arrests he was subjected to by the EFCC and Police as unlawful, illegal, oppressive and unconstitutional, adding that they violated his right to dignity, personal liberty and freedom of movement.
Onuchukwu sought an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents from further arrest, detention, harassment, invitation, parade or malicious prosecution with respect to Swiss Golden International especially as regards to any claim or business agreement made directly by anybody or group of persons to the foreign company.
He prayed for a mandatory order compelling EFCC to within 14 days, publish a retraction and an apology of its publication on all its social media pages describing him as a fraudster, which defamed his character and contravened his rights under Section 34(1) of the constitution.
He also prayed the court to nullify EFCC’s directive that he reports to their Lagos and Kano offices every month until he produces Max Lobaty, a Russian, who’s based in Russia and the representative of Swiss Golden International.
Explaining his relationship with Swiss Golden International, Onuchukwu said he has been a customer for four years and was the second person to discover the online business after his friend Emenike, who registered Swiss Golden Nigeria.
He said: “The Swiss Golden online business has been moving smoothly until some fraudulent Nigerians joined and started creating deceitful strategies to defraud Nigerians for their own selfish gains.
Swissgolden company held an international conference on November 4 and 5, 2017 at Balmoral Event Centre Victoria Island Lagos which was the 2nd Nigerian conference(the 1st conference was held in March 4th-5th ICC CENTRE Abuja), where Max Lobaty and 6 other representatives of Swiss Golden International were around for the conference. Since he was around, I used the opportunity of the event to invite him to my office for me which was intended for publicity, although I have been using the office for several months.
“While we were at the office, operatives of the EFCC Kano came together with FSARS officers to arrest me, Emenike and Lobaty. We were taken to their office in Ikoyi, where they showed us petitions from some Kano registered members of Swiss Golden International and were compelled to put down our statements on the said petitions.
“Note that my name was not mentioned in any of the petitions. The petition was against Swiss Golden International, which I am only a customer of like others. We were detained at the EFCC office that Friday 3rd November 2017 and on Saturday 4th November,2017 I and my friend, Emenike were released after we provided sureties.
“We were asked to report to the Kano office on November 6, bit Lobaty was whisked to Kano by the officers. As instructed, we got to Kano that day and my statement was taken again. Despite the pressures, I told them repeatedly and wrote it in my statement that there was no link between my company and Swiss Golden International. That company had no member in my board of directors and I am not in theirs.”
Continuing, Onuchukwu said despite his explanations and all the evidence he provided to show that Swiss Golden Africa was his own business name, the operatives said he was a fraudster and that they were running a ponzi scheme.
He said they were told that their names and pictures would be published for Nigerians to see what they were doing.
“They took pictures of us with a plague inscribed “I am a fraudster” and some other derogatory words on it. EFCC also released a statement on their social media pages with this caption “EFCC recovers N216m from Swiss Golden.”
“I and Augustine Emenike were detained in Kano for 12 days while Mr. Max Lobaty was detained for 14 days. The officers of EFCC Kano refused to release us and insisted that they will only release us when Swiss Golden Company paid 100% cash refund to the petitioners.
“The Swiss Golden International Company went out of their way and their terms and conditions to pay the sum of N216,000,000 (Two) in bits into an account provided by EFCC, after which we were released.
“On November 17, 2017, a police invitation letter was brought to my office from Zone II, CIID, Onikan while I was still in detention in Kano. They requested for my presence concerning a case involving Swiss Golden Company. “Then, invitation letters started pouring in from everywhere. There was a police invitation letter from FCIID Alagbon, Ikoyi dated November 30, 2017, for a case of conspiracy and attempt to kidnap.
“On reaching the Police station at Alagbon on December 4, 2017, I saw a letter of a petitioner, who claimed that someone did Swiss Golden business for her the wrong way of which I knew nothing about and had no links with.
“On December 15, 2017, there was another police invitation letter from Oyo State Command requesting my presence for a case that had to do with Swiss Golden Company. I was visited the next week by two policemen who said there were from CIID Abuja and were sent to arrest me for a case that has to do with Swiss Golden International.
“They stayed in my office for over four hours and refused to leave until they arrested me or one of my staff. The policemen still call me till date pressuring me to come to Abuja. On January 8, 2018, I received another police invitation letter from CIID Yaba for a case of obtaining money by false pretence, which I had nothing to do with and I also do not know the petitioners in that case.
“I also received a letter of invitation from EFCC Lagos to come to their office on January 29, for a case that had to do with Swiss Golden International. On February 2, I received yet another letter from EFCC CTGI department Ikoyi, Lagos, inviting me on February 12, for a case that has to do with Swiss Golden International in which my lawyer represented me.
“Again, I was asked by EFCC CTGI Lagos to report on February 22, the same day the EFCC Kano also invited me for a meeting. I could not make either of the meetings because I was ill and so, my lawyer informed them and asked for another date.
“On March 6, I received another invitation letter from FCIID Alagbon requesting that I be in their office on March 8,my lawyer rescheduled for the next week being March 12th 2018 in connection with a case of a Nigerian customer of Swiss Golden International. During this period, I had reported back to EFCC Kano with my surety and the officers said there were more petitions against Swiss Golden International to the tune of N3billion.
“They said before they released the Russian, Lobaty, Swiss Golden International entered into agreement with them that they will pay whenever there was a genuine petition but that they no longer respond to their mails and for that reason, they will hold me until the money was paid.
“This scared my surety and he backed out. Then, I was detained again for three days until I got another surety, provided the CAC documents and house address of a relative to stand alongside my surety.
“I was released on March 16, and on March 28, I received another police invitation letter from Zone Five Headquarters, Benin-City for a case of conspiracy, fraud and conduct likely to cause breach of peace all still related to Swiss Golden International. I had a suit then which my manager presented to them… I became frustrated by the relentless harassment from security agencies and instructed my lawyer to file a suit against them.”