N47.1bn Theft Charges: Akingbola Files Appeal, Seeks Stay Of Proceedings

ERASTUS AkingbolaThe former Managing Director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc, Erastus Akingbola, on Monday, asked the Lagos High Court, Ikeja, to stay proceedings in the N47.1 billion theft trial levelled against him by the Economic Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

His co-defendant, Mr Bayo Dada, the General Manager of Tropics Securities Ltd., also made a similar request before the presiding judge, Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo.

Mr Akingbola’s counsel, Wole Olanipekun, who filed an application to stay the proceedings, told Justice Lawal-Akapo that the application was premised on an appeal challenging his ruling of May 2.

On May 2, Justice Lawal-Akapo had dismissed an application by the defendants seeking to quash the charges against them. With that dismissal, the court then assumed jurisdiction to hear the matter and fixed Monday June 23 for arraignment.

Dissatisfied with the ruling, Mr Akingbola headed to the Court of Appeal where he filed a notice of appeal.

His lawyer, Olanipekun, therefore informed Justice Lawal-Akapo that the Court of Appeal had already fixed July 3 for hearing of the appeal; he urged the court to wait for the outcome of the proceedings, in the interest of justice.

Counsel to the 2nd defendant, Prof Taiwo Osipitan, aligned with his submissions. He further urged the court to adjourn proceedings pending the hearing and determination of Mr Akingbola’s appeal.

Counsel to the EFCC, Mr Godwin Obla, said, though, he had only just been served the application for stay of proceedings, he was, however, willing to respond orally on points of law to accelerate proceedings.

He urged the defendants to move their application and to desist from seeking an adjournment through the backdoor.

In a short ruling, Justice Lawal-Akapo granted the request of the defence counsel and adjourned till July 11 for arguments on the application to stay proceedings.

Theft Charge: Court Sets May 2 To Rule On Erastus Akingbola’s Application

Erastus AkingbolaThe Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja has fixed May 2 to rule on an application filed by the former Managing Director of defunct Intercontinental Bank, Dr Erastus Akingbola.

The former bank chief wants the court to dismiss the charges against him and he is therefore challenging the jurisdiction of the state high court to hear the 47.1 billion Naira theft charge levelled against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Dr Akingbola is charged alongside his associate, Bayo Dada for allegedly stealing the money which belonged to Intercontinental Bank.

Mr Dada also has a similar application before the court which also seeks to quash the charges against him.

At the resumed hearing of the matter today, Counsel to Dr Akingbola, Mr Wole Olanipekun, SAN while moving the application argued that the subject matter of the alleged offences relates to banking operations and operations of capital market which falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal High Court.

He premised his argument on the judgment of the Lagos Court of Appeal which struck out a theft charge preferred against a former Managing Director of Finbank Plc, Mr. Okey Nwosu, and some others.

The Court of Appeal had held in Mr Nwosu’s case that the Lagos High Court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the charge because it emanated from capital market transactions. The court also held that a case associated with the capital market should be handled by the Federal High Court.

Counsel to the EFCC, Mr Godwin Obla, SAN opposed the application of the defendants challenging the courts jurisdiction. He contended that though Section 251 subsection 1(a-s) vests exclusive jurisdiction in the Federal High court in specified cases, criminal matters on those cases were not exclusively vested in the Federal High Court.

He also contended that the precedent which the court of appeal relied on in the judgment of Okey Nwosu had been overturned by the Supreme Court. He therefore urged the State High Court to dismiss the applications of the defendants and hold that it had jurisdiction on the charges of theft preferred against both men.

The arguments went on for over 3hours with Prof Taiwo Osipitan also making a case for the 2nd defendant.

After the arguments, Justice Lawal-Akapo adjourned till May 2 his ruling on the consolidated applications as argued by the parties.

If the applications succeed, the case against Mr Akingbola and his co-defendant will collapse but if the application fails, the court will assume jurisdiction and proceed to hear the case against both men.

Flight Risk: Court Denies Akingbola Request For Medical Trip Abroad

The Lagos High Court in Ikeja has rejected an application brought by former Managing Director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank, Mr Erastus Akingbola seeking permission to travel abroad for medical treatment because he might run away.

Justice Adeniyi Onigbajo in a short ruling on Thursday, held that the possibility of Mr Akingbola running from his trial is very high since he now knows the weight of evidence against him following his aborted trial before Justice Habeeb Abiru, who was elevated to the Court of Appeal before he could deliver judgment in the case.

The Judge also held that Mr Akingbola did not bring any evidence before the court to show that no medical institution in the country could treat him and there was no evidence to also show that he had made any effort to contact any of the hospital in Nigeria for his treatment.

Justice Onigbanjo however, granted the applications of Mr Akingbola and his co-defendant, Bayo Dada, the General Manager of Tropics Finance Limited for the variation of their bail conditions.

Part of the bail conditions imposed on the men was that they must report at the office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on the first working day of every week.

But the judge said that that particular condition had outlived its usefulness since the EFCC had concluded its investigation of their alleged crime.

He agreed with the submission of the defence counsels that the men needed time to attend to their businesses and prepare for their defence.

He therefore ordered that they only report at the office of the EFCC on the first and third Fridays of every month not later than one hour before closing time in the office of the anti-graft Commission.

The case was then adjourned till the 10th of July for continuation of trial.

Mr Akingbola and Dada are standing trial for allegedly stealing N47.1 billion belonging to the defunct Intercontinental Bank. The charge was instituted against them by the EFCC in 2011.

Akingbola had in his application dated March 19, which was filed by one of his counsel; Mr. Mike Igbokwe (SAN) informed the court that he needed to keep a medical appointment fixed for April 15 at a Harley Street Hospital in London, United Kingdom.

Another of Mr Akingbola’s counsel,  Wole Olanipekun(SAN) while arguing the application on Wednesday referred the judge to some of his recent rulings including that of Abdulahi Alao, Mahmud Tukur and Wale Babalakin (SAN), whose applications on similar grounds were recently granted.

He said that there was no reason why a similar application by Akingbola should not be granted.

Justice Onigbanjo however concluded that the authorities being cited by the former bank boss were not binding since the circumstances in those cases were different from the present one.

 

EFCC Arrests Akingbola Ahead Of Tuesday’s Trial

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) will tomorrow, Tuesday, re-arraign the former Managing Director of Intercontinental Bank Plc, Mr. Erastus Akingbola, on charges of theft of the bank’s funds.

Meanwhile, the anti-graft agency in a statement released today said  it had arrested Mr. Akingbola in preparation for his arraignment before Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo of a Lagos High Court, Ikeja.

The former bank boss is currently being held at the Commission’s facility in Ikoyi, Lagos.

His re-arraignment  was necessitated  by the elevation of former trial judge, Justice Habeeb Abiru, to the Court of Appeal.  Justice Abiru had on the 22nd of October, 2012 adjourned the matter till the 22nd of November, 2012 for adoption of final addresses of the counsel in the matter.

He was, however, sworn in as a Justice of the Court of Appeal on the 5th of November, 2012.

The development rendered Justice Abiru “functus-officio” and there arose the need to re-assign the case to another judge for it to start de novo (afresh).

In the former charges,  the EFCC alleged that Mr. Akingbola and his aide, the General Manager, Tropics Finance Ltd, Mr. Bayo Dada, stole about N47.1 billion belonging to the bank.

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.

Akingbola opens defence on alleged N47.1billion theft

The former Managing Director of Intercontinental Bank PLC (now Access Bank), Dr Erastus Akingbola, and his aide, one Bayo Dada, have opened their defence in the N47.1 billion theft charge made against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Both men opened their defence on Wednesday after the ruling of the trial judge, Justice Habeeb Abiru of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja.

In the ruling, the judge dismissed their “no case submission” and held that there is a connection between the evidence of the prosecution and the charges brought against the defendants.

With the ruling out of the way, the stage was set for the former bank boss to call his first witness, one Ayoola Olabisi.

The witness who says she is a Financial and Project Consultant testified that she was in the service of Intercontinental Bank for 19 years before her disengagement.

Counsel to the defense, led by Deji Sasegbon, the witness contradicted the testimony of the EFCC’s first prosecution witness, a Chief Inspector of the bank, Mr Abdulraheem Jimoh.

She testified that contrary to his claims, she responded to a request from one of Intercontinental bank’s correspondent banks, Deutsche Bank on the transfer of the sum of 10million pounds to the effect that it was not an irregular transaction

A copy of the letter in response to the enquiries of the Deutsche bank was subsequently tendered and admitted by the bank as exhibit.

The matter has however been adjourned till the 20th of June for continuation of the testimony of the witness.