The trial of former Managing Director of Intercontinental Bank (now Access Bank Plc. after a merger in 2011), Erastus Akingbola which was meant to commence today before Hon. Justice Olatoregun of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court was adjourned on the application of the prosecution.
Mr. Akingbola had been arraigned sometime in 2010 on a 22-count charge relating to fraud, granting reckless credit facility, abuse of office and mismanagement of depositors’ funds. The charge had travelled the judicial ladder up to the Supreme Court after now retired Justice of the Federal High Court, Justice Archibong struck out the charge sometime in April 2012. In a judgment delivered on the 18th of May 2018, the Apex Court remitted the charge back to the Federal High Court for trial. The charge is now before Hon. Justice Olatoregun.
At today’s proceedings, Mr. Adebisi Adeniyi informed the court that a new set of lawyers have just been briefed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to take over the prosecution of the charge. He stated that while they were going through the proof of evidence, they realized that there was no written deposition of the witness they intended to call today and had to hurriedly make a written deposition which was served on Mr. Akingobola’s defence team this morning in court. He stated that he appreciated the fact they could not proceed with the witness today having just served the defence team with the written deposition of the said witness this morning.
Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, leading the defence team of lawyers including Prof. Taiwo Osipitan SAN and Mike Igbokwe SAN, informed the court that Mr. Adeniyi had approached him before the commencement of the sitting of the court and told him of the challenges he was facing with regard with today’s proceedings. Chief Olanipekun stated that he had given his word that he would not oppose the application for an adjournment.
The Court was not willing however to share in the magnanimity of the defence team and berated the prosecution for the delay in prosecuting the charge which she stressed has been filed since 2010. She granted the adjournment sought with a stern warning that she would be granting such adjournments on frivolous grounds for the last time. She awarded the sum of N500, 000 as costs against the prosecution for the delay and directed the payment to be done within 7 days. The charge was adjourned to the 17th of January 2019 for trial.
Access Bank Plc. had in July 2012 obtained judgment against Mr. Akingbola in the Queens Bench division of the High Court of Justice in England over some of his actions with relation to the funds of Intercontinental Bank Plc. in the sum of 654 million pounds. Access Bank had sued the former MD in the English Court on three heads of claim. The first was that from 2007 to 2009, Mr. Akingbola had spearheaded or at the least participated in a scheme whereby the bank (Intercontinental Bank) bought its own shares worth over N140 billon. They also alleged in the suit that during Mr. Akingbola’s tenure, the bank had paid money accumulating to over N18 billion to, or for the benefit of various companies in the Tropics Group which was a group of companies that Mr. Akingbola was a director in and which he, his wife and other family members directly or indirectly owned. The third claim was in respect of two transfers made by the bank in 2009 in the sum of 8,540,134.58 pounds and 1.3 million pounds to the client account of Messrs Fuglers and used to purchase properties in England.