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.
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.