Bank directors are beneficiaries
Ex-bank MD, Akingbola, on trial over N179bn fraud
A witness of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulraheem Jimoh, yesterday narrated before a Federal High Court in Lagos how loans running into billions of naira advanced to the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and others by the defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc., led to the prosecution of the bank’s former Managing Director, Dr. Erastus Akingbola. The witness made the narration while testifying in the on-going trial of the former bank chief over alleged N179 billion fraud. He testified that he was aware of some other companies owned by Dr. Saraki which were also indebted to Intercontinental Bank, but whose loans were written off. He listed some of the Senate President’s companies whose loans were written off as: Joy Petroleum Limited, with loan of N3.932 billion; Linkers Limited with N3.6 billion loan; Skye View Property with written off loan of N200.8 million and Dice Trade Limited with N1.832 billion. Saraki and his companies had N7.915 billion total loans written off by the Intercontinental Bank.
Jimoh, who was the Chief Inspector in Intercontinental Bank and presently working with the Access Bank Plc., told Justice Mojisola Olatoregun that some of the loans indebted to the defunct bank were eventually written off by Akingbola’s successor, Lai Alabi, in the interest of the ‘powers that be”. He added that some of the companies indebted to the defunct bank were owned by a former Managing Director of Access Bank Plc., Mr. Aigboje Aig- Imoukhuede and his successor, Mr. Herbert Wigwe. According to the witness, Aig-Imoukhuede and Wigwe are directors of some of the companies the then Managing Director of Intercontinental Bank, Mr. Lai Alabi, wrote off their loans.
The witness named one of the companies as United Alliance Company Limited with non-performing loans of N4.5 billion, N4.27 billion and N10.97 billion respectively. The witness testified further that he was aware that Intercontinental Bank was merged with Access Bank, adding that before Access Bank took over Intercontinental Bank, Intercontinental Bank was larger and bigger than Access Bank in asset capital base. He testified that as at the time of taking over Intercontinental Bank, he was aware it had branches and subsidiaries internationally, including Ghana and the United Kingdom. He said further that at the material time, Aig- Imoukhuede and Wigwe were MD and Deputy MD respectively at Access Bank.
The witness, however, denied suggestions by Akingbola’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) that some people at the top made Lai Alabi the Managing Director of Intercontinental Bank for the purpose of writing off their loans in the bank. Further hearing in the trial continues today. Akingbola was, on 13th March, 2019, re-arraigned by the EFCC before Justice Olatoregun over charges related to fraud and abuse of office. The last arraignment on a 22-count charge was the third time since 2010 that the former bank chief will be arraigned on the alleged offence. Akingbola was first arraigned sometimes at the Federal High Court in 2010 on a 26-count bordering on the alleged offence. About two years later, the charge was struck out by Justice Charles Archibong for want of diligent prosecution.
However, on 20th February, 2015, the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division overturned the Federal High Court’s decision striking out the charges against Akingbola. Dissatisfied, Akingbola lodged an appeal at the Supreme Court asking that the ruling be overturned. However, the apex court, in a judgement delivered on 18th May, 2018, ordered him to return to the Federal High Court to answer to the charges slammed on him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Justice Sidi Bage, who read the lead judgement of the apex court, held that the appeal is lacking in merit. He ordered that the case file be remitted to the Federal High Court for expeditious trial.
He was subsequently docked before Justice Olatoregun on a 26-count charge of alleged fraud. In the latest charge marked, FHC/L/443C/2009, Akingbola was alleged to have, between November 2007 and July 2008, created a misleading appearance of active trading in the shares of Intercontinental Bank Plc. on the Nigerian Stock Exchange by being connected with the utilization of an aggregate sum of N179,385,000,000 of the bank’s funds for the purchase of Intercontinental Bank Plc.’s shares and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 105 (1) (a) of the Investment and Securities Act 2007 and punishable under Section 115 (a) of the same Act.
The EFCC also accused Akingbola of recklessly granting credit facilities of N8 billion each to five firms without adequate security in violation of Section 15(1) (a)(i) of the Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts) and Financial Malpractices in Banks Act, Cap F2, Laws of the Federation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004, and punishable under Section 16(1)(a) of the same Act. The five firms involved are: Soo-Kok Holding Limited; Tofa General Enterprises; Cinca Nigeria Limited; Harmony Trust and Investment Limited and Stanzus Investment Limited. The anti-graft agency also alleged that Akingbola took £1.3 million from Intercontinental Bank Plc.’s GBP NOSTRO account at Deutsche Bank, London, and remitted same into the bank account of Fuglers Solicitors with the Royal Bank of Scotland Plc., London.