A witness has told Justice Tijani Ringim of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos how the sum of N681 million was paid into Ismaila Yousouf Atumeyi’s business account.
Atumeyi is a Kogi State House of Assembly candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP). He is standing trial alongside Ngene Joshua Dominic and Abdulmalik Salau, a former employee of Union Bank Plc, on an 18-count charge bordering on alleged cybercrime and money laundering to the tune of N1.4 billion.
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During the court proceeding on Tuesday, the first prosecution witness, PW1, Olusegun Falola, told the court that “sometime in October 2022, during the periodic internal review of accounts of customers, we observed that some accounts that were placed on No-debit were debited.”
Led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo (SAN), Falola, an Internal Auditor and Team Lead, General Investigations, Union Bank Plc, he said: “In the course of our review, it was observed that the methodology employed in debiting the said accounts was different from the way accounts are being debited in the normal banking activity.
“Based on this, the case was assigned to me for further internal investigation. During the review, I observed that beyond the few accounts that were referred to me for investigation, there were other numerous accounts that were being debited.
“Furthermore, the debits on these accounts were traced to two beneficiaries, Atus Homes Limited account and Fav Oil and Gas Limited.
“These two accounts received the sum of N681m and N1.38bn, respectively from the account of 429 customers.”
He also told the court that further investigations revealed that Atumeyi is the signatory to the Atus Homes Limited account, while the signatories to Fav Oil and Gas are Shuaibu Yusuf and Nurudeen.
According to him, all illicit debits on the customers’ accounts were done via internet banking on one of the bank’s platforms known as Union 360.
“As at the time of investigation, over 600m had been withdrawn from the account of Atus Homes Limited and over N800m withdrawn from Fav Oil and Gas.
“We also realized that they were able to make those fraudulent transfers because the bank system was fraudulently manipulated.
“It was this realization that made us know that only a person with privileged information on the bank’s information technology could have carried out such illicit transactions. It was based on that knowledge that we reported the matter to the EFCC for further investigation,” he added.
Oyedepo sought to tender the petition written to the EFCC, the correspondence between the anti-graft agency and the bank as well as the defendants’ statements of account that had been identified by the PW1.
However, counsel to the third defendant, Babatunde Ogunwo, objected to the admissibility of the attached statement of account on the grounds that the prosecution had not sufficiently complied with Section 84 (2) 2(4) of the Evidence Act.
“I strongly believe that the prosecution has not satisfied the provisions of Section 84 (2) 2(4) of the Evidence Act. All I heard the witness say is questions put to him by the prosecution.
“However Section 84(2) of the Evidence Act gives conditions more than what the witness has stated.
“There are four legs as stated by the Evidence Act and the witness has only answered one. These conditions have to be complied with.
“I humbly submit that the prosecution has not complied with the conditions stated for the admissibility of the statements of account”, Ogunwo argued.
Responding, Oyedepo said that the argument of the defence counsel was misconceived and also missed its target.
He, therefore, urged the court to discountenance the objection of the defence.
He also submitted that the certificate of identification as enshrined in the Section of the Evidence Act “is not a ritual that must be performed in achieving admissibility of computer-generated evidences.”
He further argued that “where the issue is as to the failure to comply with procedural steps towards admissibility, the order the court will make is not to reject the document, but to urge the tendering party to regularize.
“This document is relevant in the determination of this matter and I urge my Lord to so hold.”
In a short ruling, Justice Ringim overruled the objection of the defence and admitted the evidence in exhibit.
Justice Ringim also granted the second defendant, Dominic, bail on the same terms of the 3rd defendant, as granted on January 6, 2023.
The matter was adjourned to February 2, 2023 for the continuation of the trial.