By Michael Ojo
An officer of First Bank Plc, Mr Taiwo Ogundein Olumide on Monday recounted how various sums of money were deposited in tranches into the account of a company, Still Earth Ltd, linked to a former governor of the state, Mr Ayo Fayose.
Ogundein, a Relationship Manager with the bank made the revelation at the resumed trial of Fayose over fraud and money laundering charges at the Federal High Court, Lagos.
This is just as the defense lawyers and the judge frowned at the way the prosecution lawyer is causing slowness in the conduct of the trial.
According to the charge, Fayose was alleged to have procured the companies, Still Earth Ltd and De Privateer Ltd, to retain in their account the aggregate sums of N851 million
Fayose is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Ccommission (EFCC) over N6.9billion fraud and money laundering charges.
He was first arraigned on Oct. 22. 2018, before Justice Mojisola Olatotegun, alongside his company, Spotless Investment Ltd, on 11 counts bordering on fraud and money laundering offences.
He had pleaded not guilty to the charges and was granted bail on Oct. 24, 2018, in the sum of N50 million with sureties in like sum.
The defendant was subsequently, re-arraigned before Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke, on July 2, 2019, after the case was withdrawn from Justice Olatoregun, following EFCC’s petition.
He had also pleaded not guilty to the charges and was allowed to continue on the earlier bail granted, while the case was adjourned for trial.
The commission has since opened its case before Justice Aneke, and is still leading witnesses in evidence.
Led in evidence on Monday by the prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) the witness introduced himself as a relationship manager and told the court that still earth is an existing account with first bank which was moved to him for relationship management.
He said that he was invited by the EFCC in 2015 through his bank with respect to the company (still earth), adding that he was instructed to come along with its account opening package and statement of account.
According to the witness, he was asked several questions at the commission, and he had answered same with supporting document.
The prosecutor then tendered before the court a First Bank letter to the commission which the court admitted and marked as exhibit F4.
When prompted by the prosecutor to demonstrate specific contents of the document , the witness described page one as being the signature mandate and account statement of still earth, while next page was a certificate of identification confirming the statement.
Testifying from page 14 of the document, the witness told the court that on Nov. 12, 2014 still earth gave various deposit instructions into its account totalling N34.8 million and made in four tranches.
He also said that on Jan. 29 and 30, 2015 the account received inflows of N40million and N39.5 million , paid by Hoff Concepts Ltd and De Privateers Ltd respectively, while on Jan. 30, there was an outflow from still earth of N70.7 million to another company Capital Field Investment and Trust Ltd.
He said that on same day, there was an outflow of N105.7 million and N35 million to same Capital Field Investment, as well as an inflow of N132 million from another company Samchase Ltd.
The witness told the court that on Feb. 11, 2015 there was an inflow of N200 million from de privateer, while on May 13, 2016 there was an inflow of N47 million from same de Privateer.
Meanwhile under cross examination by defence counsel Messrs Ola Olanipekun (SAN) and Olalekan Ojo (SAN) the witness told the court that he was not aware of any record of transaction involving Fayose, adding that he could not see the name of Fayose or Spotless Ltd from exhbit F4
He confirmed that any banking procedure or transaction whether payment or deposit, must be backed by document.
When asked whether the bank considered any of the transactions in exhbit F4 to be illegal or suspicious, the witness replied that he was not in a position to speak for the bank
He said that the bank complied with instructions of its customers, adding that any suspicious transaction will not be treated by the bank.
However, after calling his 8th Witness, Jacobs informed the court that he could not go ahead in view of the absence of documents he needed to have received from the IPO. He claimed that he had a witness from Ekiti State but cannot proceed, adding that he needed a longer adjournment.
However, Counsel to Fayose, Ola Olanipekun (SAN) opposed the application for a long adjournment, saying “When these dates were taken, it was made to be a long adjournment for all parties to get prepared. I came from Abuja yes and if I could come here, why can’t their documents be brought here too?”
Also, Counsel to the second defendant (Spotless Nigeria Limited), Olalekan Ojo (SAN) said it was unheard of that the Federal Government of Nigeria that is the complainant in this matter will come to court to say that it cannot bring over documents from Abuja to Lagos.
“Is the Federal Government telling this court that it can not get documents from Abuja to Ekiti? I also took risk to get here from Ila-Orangun, Osun State yesterday. Under the Rules, the prosecution is entitled to five adjournments. Once exhausted, we will make the necessary application.
The Judge said the Prosecution should reach out to the IPO, adding that “The excuse of him being on leave is not tenable. Since there is one witness available from Ekiti State, at least, let us take him.
“The court is ready, the defence are ready, all of us are ready and the IPO is saying he is on leave? I don’t accept that.”
Trial will continue on Oct. 20.
During trial before Olatoregun. the prosecution had called witnesses, from several commercial banks, as well as a former Minister of State for Defence, Sen. Musiliu Obanikoro.
According to the charge, on June 17, 2014, Fayose and one Abiodun Agbele were said to have taken possession of the sum of N1.2 billion, for purposes of funding his gubernatorial election campaign in Ekiti, which sum they reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.
Fayose was alleged to have received a cash payment of the sum of five million dollars, (about N1.8 billion) from the then Minister of State for Defence, Sen. Musiliu Obanikoro, without going through any financial institution.
He was also alleged to have retained the sum of N300 million in his account and took control of the aggregate sums of about N622 million which sum he reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.
Fayose was alleged to have procured De Privateer Ltd and Still Earth Ltd, to retain the aggregate sums of N851 million which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.
Besides, the defendant was alleged to have used the aggregate sums of about N1.6 billion to acquire properties in Lagos and Abuja, which sums he reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.
He was also alleged to have used the sum of N200 million, to acquire a property in Abuja, in the name of his elder sister Moji Oladeji, which sum he ought to know also forms crime proceeds.
The offences contravenes the provisions of sections 15(1), 15 (2), 15 (3), 16(2)(b), 16 (d), and 18 (c) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011.