Alleged N179bn Fraud: Absence Of Judge Stalls, Ex-Bank Chief, Akingbola’s Trial

The on going trial of the former Chairman/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc, (now Access Bank Plc), Dr Erastus Akingbola before the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos was on Thursday stalled due to the absence of the trial judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun.

No reason was given for the absence of Justice Olatoregun, who is yet to resumed from the court’s annual vacation, which ended on September 16.

The case has now been adjourned till October 24 for continuation of hearing.

It would be recalled that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)  had on March 12, 2019  re-arraigned Akingbola, on a N179bn fraud charge.

Akingbola’s re-arraignment before the Federal High Court in Lagos followed a further amendment to the charges, which the EFCC had earlier instituted against him in  2009.

Justice Charles Archibong, who first handled the case, had struck out the charges, citing lack of diligent prosecution.

Displeased with the action of the Archiving, the prosecution, the EFCC went on appeal, which later overruled Justice Archibong and ordered Akingbola to return to the Federal High Court to face his trial.

Not pleased  with the decision of the appellate court, Akingbola  went to the Supreme Court, which affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeal.

As a result, the 10-year-old case was  reopened before Justice Mojisola Olatoregun  12.

At the resumption of proceedings, before Olatoregun,  the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), brought before the court a further amended charge sheet and urged the court to allow Akingbola to be re-arraigned.

The judge granted the prayer and Akingbola was consequently re-arraigned.

As opposed to the initial charge which had 26 counts, the further amended charge contained only 22 counts.

In the charges, the anti-graft agency  alleged that while Akingbola  was the MD and Chief Executive Officer of Intercontinental Bank Plc, he used N179,385,000,000 belonging to the bank for “fictitious transactions.”

The commission also claimed that Akingbola used the sum of N179bn to buy Intercontinental Bank Plc’s shares, thereby inflating the market price of Intercontinental Bank Plc’s shares on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

This, the EFCC said, was a contravention of Section 105(2)(a) of the Investment and Securities Act 2007, adding that the offence is punishable under Section 115(a) of the same Act.

The EFCC also accused Akingbola of reckless granting of credit facilities to five firms, which did not furnish the bank with adequate security for the loans.

According to the EFCC, the firms, which were each granted a loan of N8bn without adequate security under Akingbola’s watch, were Soo-Kok Holding Limited; Tofa General Enterprises; Cinca Nigeria Limited; Harmony Trust and Investment Limited; and Stanzus Investment Limited.

The EFCC said the former bank boss violated Section 15(1)(a)(i) of the Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts) and Financial Malpractices in Banks Act, Cap F2, Laws of the Federation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004, and was liable to be punished under Section 16(1)(a) of the same Act.

In another count, the EFCC alleged that Akingbola took £1.3m from Intercontinental Bank Plc’s GBP NOSTRO account at Deutsche Bank, London, and remitted same into the bank account of Fuglers Solicitors with the Royal Bank of Scotland Plc, London.

The EFCC claimed that the £1.3m was paid to Fuglers Solicitors for the purpose of buying a property in the name of Life Boat Settlement Trust, which Akingbola set up.

The EFCC said Akingbola knew the £1.3m to be proceeds of crime, “to wit: stealing and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 14(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004.”

The former bank boss, however, pleaded not guilty to the 22-count charge.

6th December 2022
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