Akingbola takes his chance in court, says I never stole a kobo

The former Managing Director of defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc, Erastus Akingbola, who is standing trial over allegations of stealing N47.1 billion from the bank, on Wednesday, had a chance to defend himself in court.

The former Managing Director of Intercontinental Bank, Erastus Akingbola is standing trial for allegedly stealing N47.1 billion from the defunct bank

Mr Akingbola, who testified in his own defence before a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja that is trying him and his aide, Bayo Dada, the General Manager of Tropics Securities Limited for stealing, denied ever stealing or defrauding the bank he help founded in 1989.

The former bank boss said the 16 counts of stealing brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before the court presided over by Justice Habeeb Abiru are spurious, malicious and false.

While being led in evidence by his counsel, Felix Fagbohungbe, Mr Akingbola said “the allegations are false and it is incorrect because I never posted, receive or authorize any such amount and I did not receive or see any money. I didn’t convert Intercontinental Bank Plc funds fraudulently to Tropics Securities Limited”

Mr Akingbola said though he is the Chairman of Tropics, he never authorised, signed or paid any money to Tropics Finance and he was not aware of the transactions on purchase of shares as he was not involved in the day to day running of the company as there was an Executive Director in charge of shares in Intercontinental Bank.

“Intercontinental Bank has 200 branches within Nigeria, 57 in Ghana and many subsidiaries so there are about 10 Executive Directors that have autonomy and are checked through countersigns by other Executive Directors,” he said.

He said the alleged transactions were carried out by the Executive Director in charge of Investments and Subsidiaries, Yinka Adebiyi who he has not seen since he left the bank in August 14, 2009 but who he learnt is still wanted by the EFCC.

“I was not aware that Intercontinental Bank Plc instructed Tropics Securities to purchase shares in 2008. This was carried out by one of the 10 Executive Directors under me who process transactions in their directorate,” he said.

Mr Akingbola also denied the allegation that he had between March and July 2009, transferred 8.5 million and 1.3 million Pound belonging to the bank to Fulgher Solicitors, a United Kingdom- based law firm.

“My Lord, this is not correct because money was not paid from the bank’s NOSTRO account but through the NOSTRO account. Like any other customer of the bank or any Nigerian that needs foreign exchange, I commissioned the bank to buy them for me.

“I put the naira equivalent down before they bought the exchange and my transfers did not go through until the naira equivalent was in the hands of our foreign operations department staff,” he said.

According to him, he financed the transaction through a N2.2 billion loan obtained from Regal Investment Company Ltd, owned by the Chairman of Board of Intercontinental Bank, Raymond Obieri.

Mr Akingbola when asked if he knew how the forex was sourced said he did not know as he does not poke nose into what does not concern him as people assigned the responsibility knew how to do their job and as a customer, he can’t be asking them and since there was no complaint from the beneficiaries.

Though Mr Akingbola admitted that he was the chairman and a signatory to the accounts of Tropics Securities Ltd, Tropics Property Ltd, Tropics Finance Ltd and Bakinson Nigeria Ltd, he was emphatic that he was not aware of the transactions.

“I am only a signatory to their accounts because I signed when the accounts were being opened about 15 years ago. I have never signed any cheque or document for these companies since then”.

He also denied that he had in February 2009, transferred N2.5 billion from Intercontinental Bank’s account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to his personal account.

Justice Abiru adjourned the trial till 26 September to enable the EFCC’s counsel, Emmanuel Ukala cross examine Mr Akingbola.

Akingbola’s lawyer accuses judge of bias

Felix Fagbohungbe, lawyer of the former Managing Director of Intercontinental Bank, Erastus Akingbola on Tuesday accused the Judge hearing the former bank boss’s corruption case, Justice Habbeb Abiru of bias.

Mr Fagbohungbe had protested when the Justice Abiru overruled his request for an adjournment till Wednesday to enable him conduct some investigation to be in a better position to continue to leading Mr Akingbola’s co-accused, Bayo Dada, who is in the witness box, in evidence.
The request was turned down by the judge, who ordered Mr Fagbohungbe to continue with the proceedings, the development got the lawyer angry and in the process he accused the court of only interested in hearing the case of the defence.

However, Justice Abiru, who had earlier in the proceedings expressed dissatisfaction over the manner in which the defence have been conducting their case, said Mr Fagbohungbe’s request for an adjournment was unnecessary.

“Since morning you have been with the witness and you spent five minutes on each question. You delayed the progress of the court and now you are seeking for adjournment, in respect of investigation. No there is no adjournment,” the judge said.

“Since the last adjourned date in July, you should have done whatever investigation you wanted to do. You had July, August and even September before yesterday’s sitting. You should continue with your question, there is still time,” he added.

Mr Akingbola’s lawyer however said, “My Lord, it is like you are angry with me. It is like you want to be hearing one side of this case. I’m not asking for too much. I was only asking for tomorrow. After all, you granted my learned friend (counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) when he requested for an adjournment yesterday (Monday) till today (Tuesday).”

Reacting to the accusation of been biased, the judge said “I’m not being biased. You have been given enough time to do your investigation before court resume. I’m friendly with everybody.”

Earlier, Mr Fagbohungbe had also while leading Mr Dada in evidence complained that the judge was not writing down some of the testimonies.

But the judge, in his response said he did not have to record everything the witness said.

“I don’t have to record everything. I am recording the important things he said. There is recording machine; there is verbatim recorder. If you want a comprehensive record of proceedings you can apply for anyone of them.”

Mr Dada, who was being led in evidence by Mr Fagbohhungbe, was accused by the EFCC along with Mr Akingbola of stealing about N47.1 billion belonging to Intercontinental Bank (now Access bank).

He was the General Manager of Tropics Finance Limited, a company in which Mr Akingbola and his wife, Anthonia had interest.

Tropics Finance Limited and its subsidiaries, the EFCC alleged were part of the firms used as vehicles for stealing the money from the bank.

In his testimony, Mr Dada told the court that the transactions of shares purchasing, which a subsidiary of Tropics Finance, Tropics Securities Limited, carried out on behalf of the bank had the approval of the bank’s management.

He also said Tropics Securities obtained separate credit facilities of N12 billion from Access Bank Plc, N2 billion from Intercontinental Capital Market Limited; N320 million from Intercontinental Homes and Savings Limited and between N100 million to N150 million from Associated Discount House, to fund the deal.

The transactions, which form part of the charge instituted against the accused, were said to involve the purchase of the bank’s share for the customers of the bank.

Justice Abiru adjourned the trial till Wednesday for continuation of cross-examination upon the request of the EFCC counsel, Emmanuel Ukala.

I am disappointed with judgment of UK court; I am innocent – Akingbola

Former Chief Executive Officer of defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc, Erastus Akingbola on Wednesday said that he is disappointed with the judgment of a UK court which indicted him of corruptly enriching himself with the fund belonging to the bank he managed.

In a press statement signed by Charles Nwagwu, the media counsel to the embattled former bank chief, Mr Akingbola said that the Justice Michael Burton’s judgment “is at variance with all evidence at the hearing.”

He said that his lawyers “have been instructed to pursue an appeal of the judgment as well as consider all further legal options.”

The statement further said that “the judgment did not order Dr. Akingbola to pay any sum of money as at today contrary to claims, in the media reports.

“This civil case in London is the fourth variant of the various cases in the Nigerian courts emanating from the forceful takeover and subsequent sharing of the assets of Intercontinental Bank and the ruthless suppression of any opposition.

“Dr. Akingbola restates his Innocence and is determined to clear his name. He remains confident that the judicial system will eventually vindicate him.”

A High Court in London found Mr Akingbola guilty of misappropriating the funds belonging to former Intercontinental bank (now Access Bank) and diverting the money for his personal use.

Delivering the judgement in a fraud lawsuit filed by Access Bank against Mr Akingbola, the presiding judge, Justice Burton ruled comprehensively in favour of the bank in respect of all aspects of its claims against the defendant.

Justice Burton said Mr Akingbola is responsible for directing the bank to buy its own shares at a loss of about N145 billion, siphoning money to companies controlled by him or his family and using Intercontinental bank’s funds to buy real estate in the U.K.

According to the judgment, Mr Akingbola wrongfully caused the bank to acquire 3.7 billion of its own shares between 2007 and 2009, and that he directed about 68 million pounds to a group of companies in which he had an interest in order to help them pay off “substantial debts.”

Intercontinental Bank one of eight lenders bailed out by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in 2009 after a debt crisis caused in part by loans to speculators in equities was later acquired by Access Bank.

The CBN had asked the U.K. to extradite Mr Akingbola after the bailout, though he later returned voluntarily to Nigeria in July 2010 to face the criminal case.

A trial in that matter is still ongoing.