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Trial commenced today in the money-laundering charge filed against immediate past governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose and a company alleged to be owned and controlled by him, Spotless Investment Limited, at the Federal High Court, Lagos.
Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Rotimi Jacobs who is prosecuting the charge on behalf of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) presented four witnesses today who were cross-examined by Chief Kanu Agabi SAN representing the former governor and Olalekan Ojo SAN representing Spotless Investment Limited.
The first two witnesses of the prosecution were senior management staff of Zenith Bank Plc. The first, Mr. Lawrence Akande is the Zonal Head of South West 1 comprising Ogun, Oyo and Osun States and supervises the activities of all the branches of the bank in those states. He is a Deputy General Manager in the bank. The second, Mr. Abiodun Oshode is the Zonal Head of South West 2 covering Ekiti, Kwara and Ondo States and supervises the activities of all the branches of the bank in those states. He is an Assistant General Manager.
From their testimony, on the 17thof June 2014, an Abiodun Agbele called Mr. Akande who is based in Ibadan, Oyo State informing him of a cash lodgment of N1.2 billion which he would like to make to the bank in Akure, Ondo State. Mr. Akande contacted his colleague in Akure, Mr. Oshode to inform him of the transaction. Mr. Agbele visited the bank in Akure with security detail and informed Mr. Oshode that the cash would be collected at the airport in Akure. Mr. Oshode then organized a bullion van to pick up the cash from the airport in Akure. At the airport, an aircraft landed and Senator Musiliu Obanikoro and one of his aides named Adewale disembarked. The bullion van was moved closer to the aircraft and the cash was moved into the bullion van and onwards to the bank in Akure.
At the bank, the cash was bundle-counted and the amount came to N1, 219,000,000. Mr. Agbele then supplied accounts where the money would be lodged. Some of the accounts supplied include those of De-Privateer Ltd, Spotless Investment Ltd and the personal account of Mr. Fayose. Some cash was also taken away. The statement of accounts of De-Privateer Limited, Spotless Investment Limited, Still Earth Limited and of Mr. Fayose were tendered by the prosecution and admitted into evidence by the court without objections from the defendants’ lawyers.
Also, sometime in 2015, Mr. Abiodun Agbele contacted Mr. Oshode regarding some cash lodgments that were to be paid into the account of Still Earth Limited domiciled with the Lagos branch of the bank. The cash was in Afao, Ekiti State and the bank sent a bullion van to move the cash to the bank’s branch in Ado-Ekiti. From the Statement of account of Earth Still Limited tendered by the prosecution, the transactions relating to that cash lodgment was found by the witness and on the 16thof April 2015, there were twenty-one lodgments in cash paid into the account by one Mr. Taofeeq. The sum of N9.9 million was paid ten times; the sum of N9.5 million was paid ten times and a lone sum of N5.5 million was also paid bringing it to a total sum of N199, 500,000. Mr. Taofeeq was said to be the driver of Mr. Agbele.
Under cross-examination, Mr. Akande stated that he made three statements to the EFCC. He stated that he made no mention of Mr. Fayose in relation to the transactions in his first statement and only began to make mention of him in the second and third statements. He however stated that there was no mistake made by him in any of the statements but that since the first statement was impromptu, he did not cover everything. He stated that the bank had CCTV cameras in its banking halls and if the CCTV was not faulty, it should capture the faces of the depositors of the funds in question.
Mr. Oshode under cross-examination stated that transactions such as the ones of which they had given evidence were not strange. He stated that he never reported the transactions as illegitimate, illicit or open to any kind of suspicion. He stated that he did not know the source of the money. He testified that he made two statements with respect to the charge in 2016 when the events were much fresher in his memory and in those two statements he never mentioned seeing Senator Musiliu Obanikoro embark from the aircraft on the 17thof June 2014. He stated that he was mentioning that fact for the first time today. Concerning whether there would be CCTV footage, Mr. Oshode stated that he is aware that the bank keeps the CCTV recordings of its banking halls but after some years, the recordings are overridden. He however does not know the number of years before the recordings are overridden, as it is the internal control and audit department of the bank that is in charge of CCTV cameras. He testified that the former governor had been a customer of the bank even before his first tenure as governor of Ekiti state and that the bank maintained a cordial relationship with him. He stated that he does not know of any donations made by either Jim Ovia or the bank to the gubernatorial campaign of Mr. Fayose for his second term but that the bank’s branch manager in Ado-Ekiti, Mr. Oluseye Alade served in the planning committee for the inauguration of Mr. Fayose along with other bankers. Finally, he testified that when the cash was moved from the airport, some of it had Diamond Bank wrappers on them.
The prosecution also called two witnesses from Diamond Bank – Mr. Olaitan Fajuyitan and Mr. Damola Otuyolo. Mr. Olaitan is the head of Treasury Operations in the bank while Mr. Otuyolo is the head of the Cash-in-Transit-Services (CITS) Department of the bank. Their testimony is that on the 16thof June 2014, the bank received instructions to pay cash of N1.2 billion from one of its customers. Since no branch of the bank can handle such volume of cash, the instructions were forwarded to Treasury Operations at the headquarters of the bank. The funds were moved from the customer’s account to an account belonging to CITS to withdraw and make the cash available. On the 17thof June 2014, the same customer made a request of N200million and the same process was followed. The instructions to withdraw the cash and the statement of account of the particular account were tendered by the prosecution and admitted by the court without objections from the defendants’ lawyers.
From the narration on the Statement of account, on the 5thof June 2014, the sum of N200 million was transferred through the Central Bank of Nigeria into the account from the office of the National Security Adviser. On the 16thof June 2014, the sum of N2 billion was transferred into the account through the Central Bank of Nigeria from a Main Imprest account. On the 16thof June 2014, the sum of N1.2 billion was debited from the account via the payment instructions given. Prior to these transfers, the balance in the account was N74, 299.85.
Under cross-examination, Mr. Fajuyitan stated that the account had a sole signatory – Mr. Olalekan Ogunseye. From the incorporation documents given to the bank at the opening of the account, which is a corporate account, the directors of the company are Ikenna Ezekwe, Oshodi Idowu and Adebiyi Elizabeth. He stated that the customer listed beneficiaries of the cash withdrawal in the instructions and Senator Obanikoro was not one of the beneficiaries. From the statement of account tendered, there was no cash transfers to or withdrawals in favour of Senator Obanikoro.
The charge has been adjourned to the 21stand 28thof January 2019 for continuation of trial.