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    Monday, April 7, 2014

    Why Erastus Akingbola’s Move To Bounce Back Will Fail *His Messy Fraud Cases

    The defunct Intercontinental Bank came under serious scrutiny, when the now suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi beamed a searchlight on the banks in Nigeria few years back.
    By the time the dust would settle, many top bankers did not just lose their job, they were made to account for their alleged misappropriation of depositors’ money and some have been jailed for being part of the collapse of the banks.
    Former Managing Director of the then Intercontinental Bank, Dr. Erastus Akingbola was popular in his days in the bank, but by the time the Apex Bank wielded its big stick, the erstwhile sensational banker was alleged to have stolen billion of naira of depositor’s funds and he is still being prosecuted over his activities in the bank.
    Akingbola’s London home was reportedly sold penultimate week by the UK government for £5.7million pounds, which is about N1.5billion.

    A UK Judge, Justice Michael Burton of the Royal Courts of Justice, London, had on July 31 2012, found Erastus Akingbola guilty of theft and fraud of monies totaling £654million and ordered that his London home be sold as part of the properties he is to forfeit having been found guilty. He was also directed to refund the sum of N165bn to Intercontinental Bank now a part Access Bank Plc.
    Mr Akingbola is also standing trial for Financial Crimes in Nigeria. He is accused by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of stealing N47billion depositors’ funds from Intercontinental Bank.

    Surprisingly, Akingbola, who was found guilty of stealing and diversion of billion of depositors funds to buy properties in the United Kingdom and purchase of shares for himself to manipulate its share price in the stock market, is struggling to make a return.
    Sources stated that Akingbola is trying to exploit the current situation to bury some of his alleged unwholesome practices, while in office such as granting and guaranteeing loans to his companies to the tune of N16bn in respect of Tropic Finance and unlawful share purchase scheme of N145bn and about £10.5million in respect of Furgler Payment claim, has begun to run from pillar to post, seeking sympathy. 

    The story of how he reportedly looted Intercontinental Bank is still fresh in the memory of Nigerians as it was celebrated in the media for many months.
    Jimoh Ibraheem, the Bank’s Chief Inspector, who was persecution witness in the high profile case of fraud and stealing against Dr. Erastus Akingbola, detailed how funds were transferred to the offshore account of Dr. Akingbola.
    Led in evidence by defence counsel, Godwin Obla, Abdulraheem told the court that he was once invited by the EFCC to give statement about the movement of funds from Intercontinental Bank to various companies account on the instruction of Akingbola while he held sway as Managing Director of Intercontinental Bank. 

    He later identified a copy of the statement he wrote on 28 January, 2011. Obla consequently urged the court to admit the document as exhibit, but defence counsel, Felix Fagbohungbe, SAN objected, arguing that he needed time to study the document. The objection was over ruled by the court and the document was admitted as exhibit.
    There were other damning allegations against Akingbola one of which was a document authorizing the transfer of £1.3 million tendered by Obla.
    After certifying that he recognized the document, the witness informed the court how he was ordered via an instruction memo to transfer the sum of 1.3 million pounds to the account of a British Law Firm, Fulgers Solicitors. 

    “I was authorized by Dr Akingbola to inform the Head of Funds Department, prior to the instructions; there were discussions that the said amount be transferred to the account of Tropic Finance Limited. The instruction came via a memo and the order was swiftly carried out. Mr. Akin Fabunmi who is the Head of Funds Department carried out the instruction,” he stated.
    A copy of an unsigned memo conveying Akingbola’s instruction to effect the transfer was given to the witness to confirm if that was the memo containing the instruction. The witness confirmed the document which was subsequently admitted as exhibit. As to the where about of the originals, Jimoh said all original documents relating to the trial were lost in the cause of investigation. 

    He continued that the instructions were carried out and the funds were transferred to the account of a British Law Firm, called Fulgers Solicitors. Obla asked the witness if there was any evidence to back up what he said. The witness said an electronically generated swift message is attached to the unsigned memo which represents the confirmation of payment. He was asked if he would recognize the said message. He answered  in the affirmative and the court handed him a copy of both the message which he confirmed.  He said such messages are usually printed out of the computer if foreign account transfers are carried out.

    Counsel to Akingbola said the documents tendered are not original and urged the court not to admit them as exhibits.Obla responded saying the originals have been misplaced as stated by the witness in the process of investigation. He referred the court to section 97(1) C of the Evidence Act which said copies of documents can be admitted. The objection was overruled by the court and the documents were admitted as exhibit
    Another document tendered by Obla was a letter written to the Bank (Intercontinental Bank Plc) by one Corporate Securities Nigeria Limited requesting that  the Bank should make a payment of 10 billion naira for some shares purchased for the bank. The letter listed how the payment was to be made to some companies. These companies are: Tropics Securities, Bankinson Nig. Ltd, and Tropics Properties. 

    The letter was signed by Bayo Dada, who is a co- accused. The witness said that instruction was also carried out as the funds were taken from pre- payment account of the Bank and credited to those companies. He said while investigations commenced, the Bank management asked him to conduct investigations as to the movement of cheques issued to those companies and it was discovered that the three cheques have been deposited in those companies’ accounts at Access Bank.
    Further investigations revealed that the companies were linked to Akingbola and his wife, Antonia. Jimoh said the instruction to effect payment was given by Akigbola through verbal instruction. A certain Mr Fabunmi then raised a memo to effect it.

    Another N8.6 billion naira was also taken from the bank through the same General Ledger manipulation. Dr. Akingbola had written a letter instructing that the said sum should be credited to the accounts of Tropics Properties Ltd., Bankinson Nig. Ltd and Tropics Finance Ltd around May and June, 2009.Through the same manipulation the sum of 3.35 billion naira was also moved via an instruction given by Tropics Finance Ltd. to Bankinson Nigeria Ltd., a company where his wife, Mrs. Antonia Akingbola has interest.

    Also on the 15 May, 2009, the sum of N350 million was paid into the account of Intercontinental Homes, N500 million was paid to the account of Intercontinental Securities and another N250 million  was paid into the account of Intercontinental Capital Market, all subsidiaries of the Bank. The said payment was effected based on a letter dated 18 May 2009, received from Bayo Dada of Tropics Finance. The witness said this particular transaction was manipulated as the date of transfer on the statement varied from the day the instruction was received.

    The sum of N1.550 billion was also moved fraudulently on the 22 May, 2009 in the same manner. An instruction from Akigbola was passed to the bank for the said money to be moved into the accounts of Tropics Finance Limited and Associated Discount House. The sum of 1.5 billion was moved to Tropics account to be fixed for one month while 50 million naira was paid to Associated Discount House to pay off debt owned by Tropics Finance Ltd.  By this, Dr. Akingbola and his associate Bayo Dada are standing trial on a 22 count charge bordering on stealing of over N42.4 billion from the defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc.
    The whole thing seems to be working against the embattled erstwhile top banker and feelers indicated that there are more troubles for him in the coming months despite his plans to stage a comeback.
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