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N179bn: Erastus Akingbola returns to court for prosecution

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Erastus Akingbola

A former Managing Director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc, Dr Erastus Akingbola, has been returned to court for prosecution over alleged N179bn fraud charges against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC)

Akingbola’s re-arraignment before the Federal High Court in Lagos followed a further amendment to the charges, which the EFCC filed against him since 2009.

Justice Charles Archibong, who first handled the case, had struck out the charges, citing lack of diligent prosecution.

Displeased, the EFCC went on appeal, which overruled Justice Archibong and ordered Akingbola to return to the high court to face his trial.

Not pleased, Akingbola went before the Supreme Court, which May last year, affirmed the decision of the Appeal Court.

As a result, the 10-year-old case reopened before Justice Mojisola Olatoregun on Monday.

At the Wednesday’s proceedings, the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), brought before the court a further amended charge sheet and urged the court to allow Akingbola to be re-arraigned.

The judge granted the prayer and Akingbola was re-arraigned.

As opposed to the initial charge sheet, which had 26 counts, the further amended charge sheet contained only 22 counts.

In the charges, the EFCC alleged that while he was the MD and Chief Executive Officer of Intercontinental Bank Plc, Akingbola used N179,385,000,000 belonging to the bank for “fictitious transactions.”

The anti-graft agency claimed that Akingbola used the N179bn “to buy Intercontinental Bank Plc’s shares, thereby inflating the market price of Intercontinental Bank Plc’s shares on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.”

This, the EFCC said, was a contravention of Section 105(2)(a) of the Investment and Securities Act 2007, adding that the offence is punishable under Section 115(a) of the same Act.

The EFCC also accused Akingbola of reckless granting of credit facilities to five firms, which did not furnish the bank with adequate security for the loans.

According to the EFCC, the firms, which were each granted a loan of N8bn without adequate security under Akingbola’s watch, were Soo-Kok Holding Limited; Tofa General Enterprises; Cinca Nigeria Limited; Harmony Trust and Investment Limited; and Stanzus Investment Limited.

The EFCC said the ex-bank chief violated 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 was liable to be punished under Section 16(1)(a) of the same Act.

In another instance, the EFCC alleged that Akingbola took £1.3m 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.

The EFCC claimed that the £1.3m was paid to Fuglers Solicitors for the purpose of buying a property in the name of Life Boat Settlement Trust, which Akingbola set up.

The EFCC said Akingbola knew the £1.3m to be proceeds of crime, “to wit: stealing and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 14(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004.”

Akingbola, however, pleaded not guilty to the 22 counts.

Justice Olatoregun adjourned the matter till Thursday for Akingbola’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), to continue with the cross-examination of the second prosecution witness, Abdulraheem Jimoh

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