N179billion Fraud: Trial of Erastus Akingbola continues

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The ongoing trial of Erastus Akingbola, a former Group Managing Director
of the defunct Intercontinental Bank, continued on February 19, 2021
before Justice A.O. Faji of a Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos with a
witness of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Babatunde
Aro, narrating how the defendant allegedly bypassed banking protocols to
transfer $11.8million and £8.54million offshore without recourse to the
bank’s standard procedures.

Akingbola is being prosecuted by the EFCC for an alleged N179billion
fraud committed by him while he held sway at the Bank. He is alleged to
have perpetrated the fraud using suspicious financial transactions. He
pleaded “not guilty” to the allegations.

Testifying as the fourth prosecution witness, Aro, who works with Access
Bank Plc, as Head, Global Compliance Advisory, told the Court that he
was part of an audit team that investigated a number of suspicious
foreign transactions including the ones involving the $11.8million and
£8.54million. It will be recalled that Access Bank acquired
Intercontinental Bank when it became financially distressed.

Led in evidence by Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, the witness who then worked at
Intercontinental Bank, told the Court that around November/December 2009
he was coopted into a team set up in internal audit “to review and
investigate some foreign transactions”.

According to him, in the course of investigating the suspicious
transactions, it was uncovered that: “On the 11th March 2009, the sum of
£8.54million was transferred from the bank’s Deutshe Bank Nostro account
to a certain Messrs Fugler Solicitors on the instruction of Dr. Erastus
Akingbola.

“The instruction was not signed and at that time his Domiciliary account
with the bank had $19 and £10,000.

“The Visa Card account was also not funded at that time, so also the
Naira account of Dr. Erastus Akingbola with the bank did not have the
equivalent of £8.54million.”

He further told the Court that the team of internal auditors found out
that the bank’s Nostro account with Deutsche Bank was debited to the
tune of $9.8million and a corresponding £7.1million was put in the
bank’s GBP Deutsche Bank Nostro account.

He said: “Another $1.98million was observed taken from same dollar
Deutsche Bank Nostro account of the bank and a corresponding £1.4million
put in the bank’s GBP Deutsche Bank Nostro account.

“The addition of the $9.8million and $1.98million will give you
$11.8million while £7.1million and £1.44million will give £8.54million.

“However, there were no corresponding amounts in the account of Dr.
Akingbola at these times, and the instruction with which the transfer
was effected was unsigned.”

He further added that “contrary to normal procedures for such
transactions, there were no corresponding deduction of charges from Dr.
Erastus Akingbola’s account before effecting the payments”.

Identifying the bank statements of the said transactions in Exhibit L,
he noted that “the authenticated message transmitted to the
correspondent bank showed the sender as Intercontinental Bank, and the
receiver as Deutsche Bank.

“The ordering customer on the document being Dr. Erastus Akingbola and
it shows the beneficiary bank account as Fugler’s Client Account.

“Details of charges was stated as OUR meaning the person sending will
pay to both himself and party sending the money to.”

While noting that Akingbola was the Group Managing Director of the bank
at the time he gave the instruction, he stressed that the said
instruction which was authorised by a manager at the bank, ought to
normally have been declined.

He said: “Normally an instruction without a signature will be returned
to the customer, or the customer will be asked to come and sign else the
bank will return it and not process it.

“Even if it is after verifying his position with the bank, the
transaction will be declined on the basis of insufficient funds.”

The case has been adjourned till March 1, 2021.

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