Justice Lateefa Okunnu of a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja on Tuesday, October 8, 2013, told a former managing director of Finbank Plc (now First City Monument Bank), Mr Okey Nwosu, and three former Directors of the bank: Dayo Famoroti, Danjuma Ocholi and Agnes Ebubedike, who are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for a N19.2 billion scam, that they have a case to answer and should be prepared to open their defense.
According to Justice Okunnu, “when there is some evidence that linked the defendants together, trial ought to be allowed to continue. What we have to consider is, has enough been said? I find that the prosecution has proved that a prime facie case has been established”.
The judge also said that: “I found out that the prosecution has evidence that the sum of N19.2 billion was funnelled through various channels. It was proved by the prosecution that depositors money were used by the defendants to purchase shares without the consent of the board of directors and seven companies were used to siphon money out of the bank and that customers fund was put to use fraudulently”.
Also, Justice Okunnu ruled that, ‘the issue of no case submission cannot be held, I see further, that evidential proof has now been shifted to the defendants, therefore, all the four applications of no case submission before the court have failed and are therefore dismissed”.
In his arguments for a no- case submission, counsel to the first defendant, Anthony Idigbe SAN, had told the court that his client only made a risky business judgment. “They traded in a stock business and that is the same risk that the directors of Finbank Plc (Now First City Monument Bank) took, they invested in shares, my lord, it was a business so that the bank can make money, it was a business risk taken by the managers. The allegation was that they did not involve the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). My lord, we urge the court to graciously discharge and acquit the first defendant”, he said. Counsels to the 2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants also aligned their submissions with Idigbe’s. They urged the court to discharge and acquit their clients.
Counsel to EFCC, Rotimi Jacob, SAN however, prayed the court to discountenance all the submissions of the defence counsel. “My Lord, we relied on Section 239, 240 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law. And the question is whether there is a ground to proceed, and we have stated in our written submission that there is a great ground to proceed. Prime facie has been made out against the defendants and we urge your lordship to throw out the application of the defendants”, he said.
It would be recalled that Okey Nwosu was arraigned alongside Dayo Famoroti, Danjuma Ocholi, Agnes Ebubedike, on a 26-count charge bordering on alleged stealing and illegal conversion of N19. 2 billion belonging to the bank.
Justice Okunnu adjourned the case to December 16th; 17th; 18th, 19th and 20th, 2013 for continuation of trial.