A defence witness, Olasunkanmi Adefowope, has admitted before an Ikeja High Court that he was paid to testify in the trial of Okey Nwosu, a former Managing Director of the defunct FinBank Plc.
Mr. Adefowope, who boasts 25 years experience as a stockbroker, said this while being cross-examined by Rotimi Jacobs, the lead prosecutor for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
“I met the defendants three days ago in their lawyer’s office, I did not know them when they were directors of FinBank Plc. I am not here by order of court.
“The lawyers paid for my appearance and I was told to shed some light on the activities of the capital market.
“The lawyers did not tell me anything about the charges that the defendants are facing,” he told the court.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Mr. Nwosu and three former directors of the bank – Dayo Famoroti, Danjuma Ocholi and Agnes Ebubedike – are facing a 26-count charge bordering on N10.9 billion fraud preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The anti-graft agency is prosecuting the defendants for alleged unjust enrichment by using N10.9 billion belonging to the bank to purchase shares for themselves and companies linked to them.
The defence opened their case during Tuesday’s proceedings after a three-and-a-half year legal battle up to the Supreme Court challenging the jurisdiction of the High Court to hear the case.
The Apex Court had in a judgment on July 17, 2016, ordered Mr. Nwosu and his co-defendants to go back to the High Court to face trial.
Mr. Adefowope added: “I have never worked in a bank but I only worked for a subsidiary of a bank.
“As a guideline for stock broking, we practice what is called Know Your Customer (KYC) and this is to ensure that money that is intended to be used to purchase of shares is not obtained through fraud.
“As part of the process of KYC, we have to go to the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and documents at CAC will reveal the directors of the company as well as those who registered the company.
“In instances where I have noticed suspicious share activities, I report such to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and not to the EFCC.”
Another witness, Bede Alugbue, the former Head of Human Resources of FinBank Plc, also told the court about the various share incentives that were offered staff by the bank.
Led in evidence by N.K Oragbwu, a member of Mr. Nwosu’s defence team, he said: “There was the Staff Share Trust Scheme which was an incentive given to staff where they became part owners of the bank through the purchase of shares.
“The money for loan for the shares was deducted from their salaries, we believed that if the staff were part-owners of the bank, they would put in their best, resulting in a win–win situation.
“There was a board approval for these loans which I was aware of by virtue of my position as the head of human resources at the bank.
“The Board Share Incentive Scheme started in 2008, the same time the staff scheme took off and members of the board approved it.”
Mr. Alugbue, while being cross-examined by Mr. Jacobs, had vehemently denied having a close relationship with Mr. Nwosu in spite of the EFCC prosecutors’ insistence.
“I was not very close to the first defendant when we were working in the bank, I have not even seen him in five years neither have I spoken to him since we worked at FinBank from 2006 to 2009.
“I do not know the nature of the charges that Mr. Nwosu is facing in court, one of the lawyers called me and told me that my name came up during a discussion.
“The lawyer asked me to come and give evidence, I was not served an order of the court,” he said.
Mr. Alugbue also denied knowledge of six companies allegedly linked to the defendants in the alleged fraud.
Lawyer to Mr. Ocholi (the third defendant),Lanre Ogunlesi, while cross-examining Mr. Alugbue claimed that he had paid back the loans he took to buy bank shares.
“The third defendant, Mr Danjuma Ocholi, paid all executive loans he took to buy shares before he left the bank.
“The proof of which is in a signed letter from the bank dated March 11, 2014 which was signed by one Felicia Okozuwa.”
Mr. Alugbue, however, denied any knowledge of the letter, saying :“I do not know how the letter was obtained, I cannot verify if Felicia signed the letter because I am not a signature expert.
Lead defence counsel to Mr. Nwosu, Anthony Idigbe, complained to the court the difficulty they were facing obtaining relevant documents for the trial.
He told the court:“My Lord, the first defendant has not had access to documents even with subpoenas issued by the court.
“The bank is stating that they need two months for the documents to be ready, we are praying for an adjournment till March 29 for the documents to be made available for us to proceed.”
In her ruling, Justice Lateefa Okunnu ordered the bank to produce the documents before March 12.
“The First City Monument Bank (FCMB) is to produce the documents well before March 12.
“In view of this, proceedings cannot continue on February 15 and February 16.”
She adjourned continuation of trial to March 29.