By Michael Ojo
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Monday opened its case before a Federal High Court Lagos in the criminal trial of immediate past Governor of Ekiti, Ayodele Fayose, charged with N6.9 billion fraud.
Fayose was arraigned by EFCC on Oct. 22 alongside his company — Spotless Investment Ltd on 11 counts. He had pleaded not guilty to the charges, and the court granted him bail in the sum of N50million with one surety in like sum and adjourned until Monday the case for trial.
On Monday, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) appeared for the EFCC, while Messrs Kanu Agabi (SAN) and Olalekan Ojo (SAN) represented the first and second accused respectively. Jacobs then called on first prosecution witness, Mr Lawrence Akande, a banker in a commercial bank in charge of South West 1, comprising Ogun, Oyo and Osun States.
Led by Jacobs, the witness told the court that in June 2014, he was called by one Abiodun Agbele, who informed him that he had about N1.2 billion cash lodgement to make in Akure, Ondo State. He told the court that afterwards, he also received a call from Fayose on the same issue, adding that since the lodgement was in Akure, he placed a call across to his colleague in Akure to follow up same.“This is all I know on this issue,” he said.
When asked if he knew the second accused, (Spotless Ltd), he replied that the company is a customer of his bank with account at Dugbe, Ibadan, Oyo State branch. The prosecutor then showed the witness some account opening document of Spotless Nig. Ltd, De Privateer Ltd, Still Earth Ltd as well as account document of first accused.
The witness confirmed the document and they were admitted by the court and marked exhibit “A”. When asked where the account of Fayose was domiciled, the witness replied: “It is not domiciled within my domain but from the document before me here I can see Apapa, Lagos. The following dialogue then ensued:
Prosecutor: Tell the court if the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) maintained an account with your bank.
Witness: Not only PDP, but so many other political parties.
During cross examination, the witness told the court that he made statements to the EFCC, on June 6, 2016, and confirmed that he made no mention of the first accused in his earlier statement.
Under cross-examined by defence counsel, (Agabi) he said that he only made mention of Fayose in his subsequent statements.
Defence: You said your colleagues handled the transactions, so it means your narration here is based on what you were told?
Witness: I was told how the cash was processed.
Defence: You had solicited for the defendant’s patronage before he came in as Governor?
Witness: We solicited for patronage on the opening of government account with our bank, because part of my business is to look for deposits.
Defence: Until invited by the EFCC, you did not observe any abnormalities with this account?
During cross-examination by second defence counsel, (Ojo) the witness told the court that he had worked in banking sector for 28 years. He confirmed to the court that a person who is not a signatory to an account cannot make withdrawals from such account.
According to the witness, there are withdrawal limits in every account and where withdrawals are to be made above the stipulated limits, it is reported to the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) to investigate such transaction.
Ojo: With respect to cash lodgments into these companies, did your bank lodge any report of suspicious transaction?
Witness: We had no reason to do so.
Ojo: Did you confirm stating to the EFCC that before the account opening of De Privateer, the sums of N200 million was lodged in the account?
Defence: You agree that before June 2014, huge sums of money had been lodged in the account of De Privateer?
Ojo: Are you aware that the PDP before elections, organised fund raising, and do you know that political parties organize fund raising?
Witness: It is not impossible but I don’t know.
Ojo: I put it to you that you have never had any dealing with the account of the second defendant.
Witness: You are correct.
Ojo: Does your CCTV camera capture customers making lodgements in the bank?
Witness: If it is not faulty, it should.
EFCC then called its second witness, Mr Abiodun Oshodi. The witness introduced himself as the Zonal head of the bank, covering South West 2 which includes, Ondo, Kwara and Ekiti, adding that he also supervises all branches in the three localities.Prosecutor:
Prosecutor: Cast your mind back to 2014 and tell the court what you know in relation to this case.
The witness told the court that he received a call from his colleague (Akande) that Agbele will be coming to make some lodgments and that he should organize a bullion van. He said that he waited for Agbele who arrived with one Sadiku and some escorts, adding that Sen. Musiliu Obanikoro, the then Minister of State for Defence, and his aide, also accompanied them.
According to him, as soon as the aircraft arrived, he moved with the bullion van towards the plane to evacuate the money. He said that the total sum amounted to N1.2billion, adding that they were lodged into accounts supplied by Agbele. He said that they include: Spotless Nig. Ltd, De Privateer Ltd as well as personal account of the first accused, while some cash were taken to Ado-Ekiti.
When asked to look at the deposits in the account of Spotless Ltd from June 17 to Aug 4, 2014, he told the court that there was a lodgment of N100 million on June 17. He said that on June 23, there was a cash lodgement of N49 million, on June 24, a cash lodgement of N200,000, while on Aug. 4, there was a cash lodgement of N40 million. According to him, on same Aug.4, there were also cash lodgements in the sums of N35 million, N35 million, N24 million, N20 million and N14 million respectively.
The witness told the court that Agbele made the deposit of June 17, while from the statement before him, he could see that it is written Ayo as depositor of the funds on Aug.4.
The trial judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun at this point adjourned continuation of trial till January 21 and 28, 2019.
According to the charges preferred against the former governor, on June 17, 2014, Fayose and Agbele were said to have taken possession of the sum of N1.2 billion, for purposes of funding his gubernatorial election campaign in Ekiti State, 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 and which sum exceeded the amount allowed by law.
He was also alleged to have retained the sum of N300 million in his bank account and took control of the aggregate sums of about N622 million which sum he ought to have known formed part of proceed of crime.
Fayose was further alleged to have procured De Privateer Ltd and Still Earth Ltd, to retain in their two bank accounts, the aggregate sums of N851 million which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.
Besides, the accused 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.
The accused 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 contravened 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