By Sandra Umeh
Lagos, Oct. 19, 2020 A prosecution witness on Monday narrated to a Federal High Court in Lagos how N851 million was allegedly deposited in tranches into Bank accounts of two companies owned by former Gov. Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti.
Mr Taiwo Ogundein, a Relationship Manager, First Bank of Nigeria Plc., testified at the hearing of the N6.9 billion fraud and money laundering case brought against Fayose by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
He was led in evidence by EFCC counsel, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN).
Ogundein said that the sums were deposited into the accounts of a company, Still Earth Ltd. and De Privateer Ltd.
The EFCC had accused the ex-governor of procuring Still Earth Ltd. and De Privateer Ltd. to retain in their accounts aggregate sums of N851 million.
Fayose was first arraigned on Oct. 22. 2018, before Justice Mojisola Olatotegun.
He was charged alongside his company, Spotless Investment Ltd., on 11 counts bordering on fraud and money laundering.
He, however, pleaded not guilty, and was granted bail on Oct. 24, 2018, in the sum of N50 million with sureties in like sum.
The defendant was re-arraigned before Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke on July 2, 2019, after the case was withdrawn from Olatoregun, following EFCC’s petition.
He also pleaded not guilty to the charges before Aneke, and was allowed to continue on the bail earlier granted him.
The EFCC had since opened its case before Aneke, and had led witnesses in evidence.
Ogundein told the court that he was invited by the EFCC in 2015 through his bank with respect to Still Earth, and was instructed to come along with its account opening package and statement.
According to the witness, he was asked questions at the EFCC office and he answered with a supporting document.
Prosecution counsel, Jacob’s, tendered before the court a First Bank letter to the commission, which the court admitted and marked Exhibit F4.
When asked by Jacobs to describe the specific contents of the document, the witness described page one as the signature mandate and account statement of Still Earth, while the next page was a certificate of identification confirming the statement.
He told the court that on Nov. 12, 2014, Still Earth gave deposit instructions into its account totaling N34.8 million in four tranches.
He also said that on Jan. 29, 2015, and Jan. 30, 2015, the account received inflows of N40 million and N39.5 million paid by Hoff Concepts Ltd. and De Privateers Ltd. respectively.
He added that on Jan. 30, 2015, there was an outflow of N70.7 million from Still Earth to another company, Capital Field Investment and Trust Ltd.
According to him, on the same day, there were outflows of N105.7 million and N35 million to 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.
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 Exhibit F4.
He testified that any banking procedure or transaction whether payment or deposit, must be backed by a document.
When asked whether the bank considered any of the transactions in Exhibit F4 to be illegal or suspicious, the witness said that he was not in a position to speak for the bank.
He, however, said that the bank complied with instructions of its customers, adding that any suspicious transaction would not be treated by the bank.
The court adjourned further trial of the case until Oct. 20.
Naija247news reports that the prosecution had called witnesses from some 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 illegally took possession of N1.2 billion for purposes of funding his gubernatorial election campaign.
The EFCC alleged that the defendants out to have known that the sum formed part of crime proceeds.
Fayose was alleged to have received a cash payment 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 N300 million in his account and took control of about N622 million which he reasonably ought to know formed part of crime proceeds.
Fayose was also alleged to have procured De Privateer Ltd. and Still Earth Ltd., to retain N851 million which formed part of crime proceeds.
The defendant was equally accused of illegally using about N1.6 billion to acquire property in Lagos and Abuja.
He was also alleged to have illegally used N200 million to acquire a property in Abuja in the name of his elder sister, Moji Oladeji
The alleged offences contravene 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.