(EFCC Press Release)A former managing director of Intercontinental Bank Plc now Access Bank Plc, Erastus Akingbola and one of his associates, Bayo Dada on Thursday, September 27, 2012 failed to produce a witness they had earlier told the court will be available to testify in the continuation of their trial before Justice Habeeb Abiru of a Lagos High Court. The duo are standing trial over an alleged N46billion theft.
Justice Abiru adjourned the case on Wednesday, September 26, 2012 to enable the defence team led by Felix Fagbohungbe SAN, produce a witness to testify on documents tendered as part of exhibits in the on-going trial.
The documents are part of evidence requested via a subpoena from Rockson Engineering, one of the companies whose names came up during testimonies by witnesses in the cause of the trial.
On the last adjourned date, those documents were brought to court by a staff of Rockson Engineering, Eigbobo Gloria Alero, who works with the company’s Legal department. They were tendered by the defence team before the court, but the EFCC Counsel, Emmanuel Ukala SAN, objected saying the documents will have to be tendered properly by a witness under oath since they were part of exhibits. Justice Abiru consequently adjourned the matter asking the defence counsel to produce a witness. The defence team could not, however, produce the witness.
Meanwhile, Akingbola, at the last court sitting, contradicted himself under examination by Ukala, SAN, when questions were raised concerning dates and instructions given regarding the sum of 1.3 million pounds and another 8.5 million pounds allegedly transferred from Akingbola’s account to an off shore beneficiary in 2009.
Ukala had asked Akingbola to explain to the court where the sum of N344 million converted to 1.3 million pounds sterling, transferred by the Intercontinental Bank via instructions from Akingbola, into the account of Fulgers Solicitor in London , United Kingdom, came from.
From evidence already tendered before the court, the first Defence witness, Mrs Ayoola Ayinde, had told the court that she got a verbal instruction via a telephone call from Akingbola that Tropics Finance was going to provide a facility to Akingbola which will be used to finance the funds transfer on his behalf. When the question was however put to Akingbola by Ukala if it was standard banking practice to carry out a transaction on behalf of a customer without a duly signed instruction, his reply was simply ” it is “.
Akingbola explained to the court that a customer can make phonecalls to give instructions to his bank officials to carry out a transaction on his behalf but that the onus is on the person carrying out the instruction to decide if the customer can be trusted. ” There are exceptional circumstances like can I trust you? One can be in Nigeria and call an overseas bank to do a transaction, when they checked the account and they are satisfied they can carry out the transaction for you, the onus is on the fellow carrying out the transaction.” Akingbola explained.
When asked if he had funds that could cover the amounts transferred on his behalf, Akingbola said no, adding that this influenced his request for a cash backing from Tropics Finance. Ukala then asked how the agreement was reached between himself and Tropics Finance if there were no letters, no dates for the transaction and such transaction was carried out? Replying, Akingbola said there was no way a bank will debit an account without a written instruction, which was contradictory to his previous position on oral instructions.
He said when he told Mrs Ayinde to effect a transfer on his behalf, he also told her that the funds will be moved from the account of Tropics Finance to his own naira account with the bank, a letter was written by Tropics Finance to effect the transfer. When asked about the date on the letter, he said he did not know.
Ukala then told the court that the transfer was carried out before the funds hit Akingbola’s account. He said Akingbola, going by his testimony before the court, had said he had no funds that can cover such transactions which was why he asked for a facility from Tropics Finance. The prosecution went on that the transfer was carried out on the 10th March 2009 but funds from Tropics Finance hit Akingbola’s account on the 12th March,2009 which means the funds were taken from the bank’s pool account.
Regarding the 8.5 million pounds which was also transferred via verbal instruction as claimed by the first defendant, it had been established before the court by the previous defence witnesses that Regal Investment provided the naira equivalent of N22 billion as facility to Akingbola in order to carry out the transfer.
But from documents also tendered, the transfer was also carried out before the funds hit his account from Regal. When Ukala put this to Akingbola, he denied any knowledge that the funds was paid into the beneficiaries account earlier than the cash backing was provided. He said the fund was paid into the bank’s Foreign Operations Account from where it was taken to effect the transfer, so he had no knowledge of the banking operations that took place. He said he was not aware of the date but he received a call from the beneficiaries on March 16th 2009 that the money was credited. He said it was during the court process that he learnt that the funds left the account on the 12th March, 2009.
Tropics Securities Limited is a Finance company belonging to Akingbola. The company according to the first defendant is a member of Tropics Groups comprising of other companies registered in his name and that of his wife, Anthonia. They include: Tropics Holdings, Tropics Finance, Octopus Nigeria Limited and Bankinson Nigeria Limited.
Akingbola had stood as guarantor for these companies at one point or the other when such companies applied for loan facilities from other banks. When asked by Ukala if he had stood in such capacity for these companies, he again denied. He was then handed documents from the exhibit where his name was clearly spelt out as guarantor. “These are bank internal papers, I did not guarantee personally,” said Akingbola.
Ukala then raised the issue of a loan given Intercontinental bank which was paid to Tropics Securities in which Akingbola’s role was clearly spelt out as a guarantor. The money was said to have been taken by the bank and paid to Tropics Securities to purchase shares on behalf of Intercontinental bank. When Akingbola was asked to explain his role in the loan, he said he only intervened when he was told that loan will be taken on behalf of a customer but he did not know the customer concerned. He said the shares in question were bought for some governors and top politicians who are customers of the bank.
Ukala handed him another exhibit. The exhibit contains names of the supposed customers.
” Do you know one Ola iya Babatope Bankole and another Orelope Idowu Akinyemi? Do you also know the address PMB 8150, Victoria Island ?” Ukala asked. Akingbola replied that the name, Olaiya Babatope Bankole was his other names. He said he did not know the other person mentioned neither did he know the address in Victoria Island . Ukala put it to him that the other name, Orelope Idowu Akinyemi was Akingbola’s son. He said the person’s address on the document tendered is number 12, Ruxton Road , Ikoyi which is the same as Akingbola’s residential address. He told the court that the shares claimed to have been bought on behalf of the bank customers were bought by Akingbola, his wife and son. He said Akingbola tried to force the shares on Intercontinental bank when he reckon there will be losses.