The former Intercontinental Bank chief says the allegations against him by the EFCC are “false, incorrect, and malicious”
A former Managing Director of Intercontinental Bank Plc, Erastus Akingbola, on Wednesday told an Ikeja High Court in Lagos that he did not steal N47.1 billion from the bank.
Mr. Akingbola made the denial while testifying at his ongoing trial before Justice Habeeb Abiru.
Mr. Akingbola and a stockbroker, Bayo Dada, were charged for allegedly stealing the money from Intercontinental Bank, now part of Access Bank Plc.
The former bank chief described the allegations against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as false, incorrect, and malicious.
The defendant told the court in his evidence in chief that he neither authorised nor benefitted from any of the transactions for which he is being prosecuted.
Led in evidence by his counsel, Felix Fagbohungbe, he denied ever transferring 8.5 million and 1.3 million Pounds Sterling of the bank’s funds to Fulgher Solicitors, a United Kingdom-based law firm, between March and July 2009.
“This is not correct because money was not paid from the bank’s NOSTRO account but through the NOSTRO account,” Mr. Akingbola said. “Like any other customer of the bank or any Nigerian that needs foreign exchange, I commissioned the bank to buy them for me.”
Mr. Akingbola said he provided the naira equivalent before the bank bought the exchange and that his “transfers did not go through until the naira equivalent was in the hands of our foreign operations department staff.”
He said the naira equivalent was sourced from Regal Investment Company Ltd., owned by the then Board Chairman of Intercontinental Bank, Raymond Obieri, who granted him a N2.2 billion loan.
The former managing director added that after sourcing the money, he instructed the bank’s Head of Foreign Operations, Ayoola Ayinde, to go ahead with the transfers.
“I do not know if the transactions passed through his personal domiciliary account with the bank because there is no complaint from the beneficiary,” he said. “I could only have known such things if there was a complaint from the beneficiary in the UK but there was none.”
Mr. Akingbola added that Intercontinental Bank was a bank with “over 1,000 branches in Nigeria, 50 in Ghana and in other countries and so I had no time to be checking such things.”
He however admitted that he was the chairman and a signatory to the accounts of Tropics Securities Ltd, being managed by Mr. Dada; Tropics Property Ltd; Tropics Finance Ltd; and Balkison Nigeria Ltd.
The EFCC had claimed that Mr. Akingbola used his influence to instruct the bank to pay N18.6 billion to these companies for the purpose of buying shares on behalf of the bank.
Responding to the allegation, he said: “I never processed, instructed or authorised such payments and neither did I receive any money from these companies, not to talk of stealing it.
“I am only a signatory to their accounts because I signed when the accounts were being opened about 15 years ago. I have never signed any cheque or document for these companies since then,” he said.
Mr. Akingbola said he was aware that Tropics Securities was made one of the major stock brokering firms of the bank in 2004 but did not know if the company bought the said shares for the bank. He said Intercontinental Bank had 10 executive directors and he was made to know that the N18.6 billion approval was made by the Executive Director, Investment Banking and Subsidiaries, Adeyinka Adebiyi, who is still wanted by the EFCC.
He further denied that he had in February, 2009, transferred N2.5 billion from Intercontinental Bank’s account with the Central Bank of Nigeria to his personal account.
The matter was adjourned to September 26 for his cross-examination by the EFCC counsel, Emmanuel Ukala.