Succour came the way of a Nigeria businessman, Mr. Orji Prince ChuIkem, whose hand luggage containing $1, 630 million USD, was illegally and unlawfully converted by some staff of Emirates Airlines, during a business trip from Lagos to China in 2007, as a Lagos Federal High Court, has ordered the airline to pay back the money to the businessman.
The court also awarded the sum of N50 million against Emirates Airlines, for the untold hardship it subjected the businessman to, as a result of the said illegal and unlawful conversion of the businessman’s hand luggage that warehoused the said $1, 630 million USD.
Justice Sule Muslim Hassan, who presided over the court, made the above orders on Monday, while delivering judgement in a suit filed against the Airline by the businessman..
Orji in a suit marked FHC/L/CS/1006/2009, had accused Emirates Airlines of illegal and unlawful conversion of his $1.630 million USD, which he intended to buy some goods from Dubai, Hong-Kong and China.
The businessman in his amended statement of claimed filed and argued before this court by his counsel, Sir Chris Ekemezie and Anayo Alpheus Mbah, said the incident occurred on December 19, 2007, at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, when he boarded an Emirate Airline flight from Lagos -Dubai Hong Kong Guangzhou -China on flight No. EK 784 and a connecting flight C2358 to China.
He stated that at the airport, after he checked in two luggage containing samples of goods he intended to buy in China both weighing approximately 40 kilograms respectively and tagged EK 650161 and EK650162.
He had two hand luggage, one containing the sum of US$1,630 million and the other containing his personal effects which were both within the permissible weight allowed to be carried as hand held luggage. Adding that his hand luggage were duly screened by the Customs and immigration officers in the presence of some members of staff of the Airline, after he had filled the Nigerian Customs Service currency declaration form.
The businessman stated that when he got to the boarding gate of the aircraft, some staff of the airline intercepted him and demanded for his passport, boarding pass and ticket. After perusing the documents, they enquired as to the contents of his hand luggage, to which he freely told them that one of the bags contained money and the other his personal effects.
He added that the airlines staff compelled him to open the bags and the which he vehemently opposed but after a prolonged argument and in order not to miss his flight, he opened up the bags for them to view the contents.
He averred that the staff of the airline further insisted that the bags must be tagged despite his protest, assuring him that the bags will be put in a special compartment and will be handed over to on arrival at his destination. He added that the the tag numbers placed hand luggage were entirely different from the tag used at the check in counter, which were stuck to his ticket with tag number EK428682 and EK428683 respectively.
Orji avers that on arrival at Guangzhou, he went to claim his bags and to his utmost surprise, all his luggage were missing.
He added that he immediately lodged a complaint with the Southern China Airline officials he found at the counter, who asked him of the contents of his luggage which he quickly explained to the officials, afterwards, the officials immediately sent email With Ref No. CANCZ 48954 and CANCZ 48933 where they informed Emirates Airlines to search for his luggage and revert back to them Immediately.
He stated that on December 23, 2007, he went back to the Airport he was informed that two of his luggage which he checked in at the check-in counter at Murtala Mohammed International Airport With tag number EK650161 and EK650162 had arrived, however, the other bags collected at the boarding gate of the aircraft in Nigeria had still not arrived.
He added that on the advice of Southern China Airline staff, he refused to collect the two bags and immediately made another report of missing luggage, thereafter the officials of Southern China Airline started making frantic calls to Emirates Airlines’ office in Dubai requesting them to check for the bags as they had not gotten any reply from them.
He stated that on December 24, 2007, the Southern China Airline Staff advised him to go to Dubai to make complaint as they had not received any response from the Defendant. And after procuring all the necessary documents, he arrived Dubai December 29, 2007 and immediately went to the police station to report the incident and he was however, asked to go to the bagging section of the Emirates Airlines and make his complaint, this be said he immediately did and the search for the two bags commenced in earnest.