The trial of former Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, before the Federal High Court in Lagos over an alleged N6.9 billion fraud and money laundering charges resumed on Monday before Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke.
Fayose was first arraigned on October 22, 2018, before Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, alongside his company, Spotless Investment Ltd, on 11 counts bordering on the offences.
During the course of trial before Justice Olatoregun, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had called 13 witnesses out of its 15 listed witnesses.
The witnesses are from several commercial banks, as well as a former Minister of State for Defence, Senator, Musiliu Obanikoro.
But before the EFCC could close its case, the case file was move from the court of Justice Olatoregun by the then Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adamu Abdul-Kafarati, who is now retired, to Justice Aneke.
Justice Abdul-Kafarati decided to retrieve the case file from Justice Olatoregun due to a petition written to that effect by the EFCC.
In the petition dated May 21, and signed by the acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, the anti-graft agency said it had “lost confidence” in the judge.
The defendant was subsequently re-arraigned before Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke, on July 2.
Fayose pleaded not guilty to the charges and was allowed by the court to continue to enjoy the terms of the bail earlier granted to him by the former judge.
At the resumed hearing of the case on Monday, the EFCC counsel, Adebisi Adeniyi, called the first prosecution witness, Lawrence Akande, an employee of Zenith Bank Plc.
In his Chief examination, the witness said that he was responsible for the supervision of 20 branches of the bank under the three states of Oyo, Ogun and Osun.
When asked where he was in 2014 he told the court that he was in Ibadan as Zonal Headof the bank, adding that he had held several positions with the bank.
In his testimony, the banker further told the court that in June 2014, he received a call from the first defendant informing him that there will be a business transaction in Akure.
Adeniyi further testified that at that point, he called one Biodun Oshode who was based in Akure as Zonal head of the bank, to handle the transaction.
According to him, Fayose maintained three accounts with the bank namely Spotless Investment, De Privateer, and Fayose’s personal account which he said is domiciled in Apapa.
When asked if he recalls that the bank supplied any accounts to the EFCC in relation to the instant case, he replied No. adding that there is a department of the bank responsible for handling such matters.
Under cross examination however. the witness told the court that his bank had solicited for patronage from the defendant
Defence counsel (Olanipekun) had asked the witness if he met the defendant for the first time in the course of this transanction, and whether he had sought any patronage from him.
Witness replied that he did not just meet Fayose for the first time in the transaction.
He said, “no, he has always being my Governor, and Yes as a good zonal head of my bank i solicited patronage from him.”
Defence asked, “At all times, you knew the defendant to be someone of high network through whom you get sufficient funds into your bank,?
The witness replied “Yes”
On what informed his opinion, the witness further replied ” A man of low means does not become the governor of a state so i should know.
He also told the court that he received a call from the defendant to pick up money from the Akure Airport, sometime in June 2014.
Under cross examination by second defence counsel (Ojo) the witness told the court that it was not posible for a non account holder of a bank. to issue payment instructions to the bank.
Ojo asked “Do you recall giving evidence in this charge before justice Olatoregun, ” ? The witness replied Yes, confirmed.
Ojo then suggested to the witness that a depositor of funds cannot write “Self” in the column for depositor, where he is not the account holder.
The witness replied, “That’s correct.”
Ojo also asked, “so you have no direct knowledge of the transactions including lodgement, payments. or deposits in relation to this account. ”
The witness replied “Correct”
Ojo again asked: ” So all other things, were based on what you were told”
The witness replied Yes.
Justice Aneke has adjourned the case to October 22 for continuation of trial.
According to the charge, on June 17, 2014, Fayose and one Abiodun Agbele were said to have taken possession of the sum of N1.2 billion, for purposes of funding his gubernatorial election campaign in Ekiti, which sum they reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.
Fayose was alleged to have received a cash payment of the sum of five million dollars, (about N1.8 billion) from the then Minister of State for Defence, Sen. Musiliu Obanikoro, without going through any financial institution.
He was also alleged to have retained the sum of N300 million in his account and took control of the aggregate sums of about N622 million which sum he reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.
Fayose was alleged to have procured De Privateer Ltd and Still Earth Ltd, to retain the aggregate sums of N851 million which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.
Besides, the defendant was alleged to have used the aggregate sums of about N1.6 billion to acquire properties in Lagos and Abuja, which sums he reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.
The former Governor was also alleged to have used the sum of N200 million, to acquire a property in Abuja, in the name of his elder sister, Moji Oladeji, which sum he ought to know also forms crime proceeds.
The offences, according to the anti-graft agency, violated sections 15(1), 15 (2), 15 (3), 16(2)(b), 16 (d), and 18 (c) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011.