Detectives from the Special Fraud Unit [SFU] of the Nigeria Police said last evening that they had a satisfying initial interview with pioneer chief executive officer of the defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc, Erastus Akingbola, regarding high scale fraud in the institution for which the immediate past governor n Kwara State, Bukola Saraki, and the immediate past chief executive officer of the bank, Mahmoud Lai Alabi, are at the centre of an N11 Billion loan scheme.
Usually reliable police sources at the Milverton Road, Ikoyi, Lagos offices of the SFU told Premium Times this evening that Mr Akingbola “guided our investigations in an interesting way with what I will call comprehensive information” adding that Mr Akingbola provided useful evidence that detectives believe will help move their investigations to the “next level.”
At the core of the current case, according to police sources, is the mystery of jumbo loans running over N11 Billion made to subsidiaries of an oil marketing company, Joy Petroleum, owned by one of Saraki’s former aides, now deceased, some say, also in mysterious circumstances.
The detectives, therefore, according to our sources, want Mr. Saraki to help them understand how choice properties in the up-scale markets of Ikoyi and Victoria Island in Lagos connected to him were used as collaterals in the multiple loan schemes that were not repaid but had been substantially written off and the properties relieved of their collateral status.
By bringing Mr. Akingbola ahead of Mr. Saraki, who will himself will be at the SFU today, police insiders revealed to Premium Times that the strategy, in essence, is to “procure enough oil to fry him [Mr. Saraki] dry.”
Mr. Akingbola himself has enough legal headache of his own, as he is facing a 22-count charge of stealing N42 Billion from the same bank when he was the chief executive. Citing sloppy EFCC prosecutions, Justice Charles Archibong of the Lagos Federal High Court spurned the case out but did not offer a discharge and acquittal, allowing the prosecutors, after learning their lessons, to proper their prosecution and bring back the charges with a renewed seriousness.
Yesterday at the SFU, however, Mr. Akingbola enjoyed a modest rock star status, boasting, as one detective revealed, that the Alabi tenure at the bank escalated fraud far beyond the norm and entrenched corruption deeper into the innards of the bank’s operational life.
Mr. Akingbola had special reasons to nail the Saraki-Alabi coffin. After the Lamido Sanusi leadership at the Central bank of Nigeria threw him out of the bank for stealing depositor’s fund, he raised alarm that the Saraki family was plotting to take over the bank to which they had become hugely indebted.
In a letter the president, Mr. Akingbola pointed at the appointment of Mr. Lai Alabi, a former farm managers to the Saraki family agricultural holdings, as the chief executive to take over from him. He also pointed at the arrival of bank operational staff from the defunct Societe Generale Bank ran aground by the Saraki family at Intercontinental as evidence of his concerns.
Mr. Akingbola, in other words, was also hinting at the culpability of Mr. Sanusi whom characterized as a friend to Mr. Saraki, in his woes, and intercontinental Bank’s fraudulent tilt.
Mr. Alabi also made statements to the SFU on Tuesday and yesterday but was allowed to go home after a night in police cell.
Police detectives say they hope to close a circle in the investigations with Mr. Saraki today but the former governor responded angrily through media aides yesterday saying the investigations now amounted to an endless fishing expedition because he had answered question on this case endlessly.
Detectives also say they believe the current governor of Kwara State, Mr. Abdulfatai Ahmed, will eventually be invited too share his own role in the scandal since a lot of the money transfer was authorized and executed under his watch as finance commissioner in the administration of Mr. Saraki.