Ayotunde Solademi, a foreign service national investigator with the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), has testified in a trial involving charges of counterfeit dollar traveller’s cheques in Lagos State.
The charge was filed at the Lagos State High Court against the quartet of Mark Obisesan, Olumide Mcintouch, Bolaji Bakar, and Goodluck Bazunu.
At the resumed proceedings last Thursday (30 November), prosecution lawyer, N.K. Ukoha, led in evidence, Mr Solademi, and another witness, Bamaiyi Mairiga, a forensic expert with the EFCC’s forensic department, who testified against the defendants.
The EFCC shared the highlights of the proceedings with our reporter in a statement it issued on Tuesday (5 December).
The defendants were re-arraigned on 16 February before I.O. Ijelu of the Lagos State High Court in Ikeja on an amended 11-count charge of purchase of forged dollar traveller’s cheques.
A traveller’s cheque is a medium of exchange that can be used in place of hard currency.
Mr Solademi, who testified as the second prosecution witness, narrated the roles the FBI played in the investigation of the alleged fraud.
He said the EFCC, on 6 January 2020, wrote a letter to the FBI through the office of the Legal Attache in the US Consulate, Lagos, to assist it to confirm the genuineness or otherwise of 11 traveller’s cheques.
“The copies of the traveller’s cheques were attached to the letter and the numbers on the cheques were also included in the letter,” he said.
According to him, the team assigned to the task immediately swung into action and a letter was written to the American Express Traveller’s Cheque Authentication Centre, including the attached copies of the cheques in question sent by the EFCC. He stated that the centre confirmed that all the 11 cheques were not genuine.
“They also sent us features to look out for in a genuine American Express Traveller’s Cheque. All these were packaged in a letter and the response was sent back to the EFCC in January 2020,” he said.
At the hearing on 30 November, Mr Solademi identified exhibits P2 and P3, which were already before the court, as the letter of investigation activities from the EFCC and the response of the FBI to same.
While being cross-examined by the lawyer to the first defendant, Bolaji Ayorinde, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr Solademi noted that he was not a forensic analyst and what they did with the request of the EFCC was to forward same to American Express Traveller’s Cheque Authentication Centre and the reply was subsequently forwarded to the EFCC.
Mr Solademi, under cross-examination by counsel for the second, third and fourth defendants, Bilikisu Afe, N.T. Adebago and Ndubuisi Oraenyen, respectively, maintained that it was the American Express Traveller’s Cheque Authentication Centre that analysed the said cheques and the response forwarded to the EFCC, as requested.
The third prosecution witness, Mr Mairiga, told the court about the forensic analysis carried out on the said documents.
He said the Lagos Zonal Command of the EFCC, in 2020, sent a request for forensic analysis of 10 American Express Traveller’s cheques and one Mastercard $100 cheque.
“They were analysed for security features and the ten were found to be counterfeits and only the MasterCard $100 Traveller’s Cheque was genuine,” he said.
He, thereafter, identified the letter of request from the Lagos Zonal Command of the EFCC, which was already before the court, as Exhibit P1, as well as the response from the Forensic Laboratory to the request dated 7 February 2020. He maintained that there was a universal process of forensically analysing documents.
After the witnesses’ testimonies, the prosecution lawyer, Mr Ukoha, closed his case.
“This is the case of the prosecution,” he said.
Thereafter, the judge, Mr Ijelu adjourned the suit until 18 January 2024.
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