A Prosecution Witness, Mr Lawrence Akande, on Monday told a Federal High Court in Lagos that his bank solicited patronage from embattled former Governor of Ekiti State, Mr Ayodele Fayose, who is facing money laundering charges.
Akande is a first prosecution witness and a banker with a second-generation bank, who testified at the resumed trial of Fayose.
Fayose is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over N6.9 billion fraud and money laundering charges.
He was first arraigned on Oct. 22. 2018 before Justice Mojisola Olatotegun alongside a company, Spotless Investment Ltd. on 11 counts bordering on fraud and money laundering.
He had pleaded not guilty to the charges and was granted N50 million bail with sureties in like sum on Oct. 24, 2018.
The defendant was subsequently re-arraigned before Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke on July 2.
Fayose also pleaded not guilty to the charges and was allowed to continue on the earlier bail granted, while the case was adjourned.
On Monday, Mr Adebisi Adeniyi announced appearance for the prosecution, while Messrs Ola Olanipekun (SAN) and Olalekan Ojo (SAN) appeared for the first and second defendants, respectively.
In his chief examination, the witness introduced himself as a staff of the bank residing in Lekki.
He said that he was responsible for the supervision of 20 branches of the bank in the three states of Oyo, Ogun and Osun.
When asked where he was in 2014, he told the court that he was in Ibadan as zonal head of the bank, adding that he had held several positions with the bank.
He told the court that in June 2014, he received a call from the first defendant informing him that there will be a business transaction in Akure.
He said that at that point, he called one Biodun Oshode who was based in Akure as zonal head of the bank, to handle the transaction.
According to him, Fayose maintained three accounts with the bank in the names of Spotless Investment, De Privateer and Fayose’s personal account domiciled in Apapa.
When asked if he recalled that the bank supplied any accounts to the EFCC in relation to the instant case, he replied “No”, adding that there was a department of the bank responsible for handling such matters.
Under cross-examination, the witness told the court that his bank solicited for patronage from the defendant.
The defence counsel, Olanipekun, had asked the witness if he met the defendant for the first time in the course of this transaction and whether he had sought any patronage from him.
Witness replied that he did not just meet Fayose for the first time in the transaction.
He said: “No, he has always been my governor and as a good zonal head of my bank, I solicited patronage from him.”
Defence asked: “At all times, you knew the defendant to be someone of high network through whom you get sufficient funds into your bank?
The witness replied: “Yes”
On what informed his opinion, the witness further replied: “A man of low means does not become the governor of a state so I should know.”
He also told the court that he received a call from the defendant to pick up money from the Akure airport sometime in June 2014.
Under cross examination by second defence counsel, Ojo, the witness told the court that it was not possible for a non-account holder of a bank to issue payment instructions to the bank.
Ojo asked: “Do you recall giving evidence in this charge before Justice Olatoregun,’’ to which the witness replied: “Yes”.
Ojo then suggested to the witness that a depositor of funds could not write “Self” in the column for depositor when he was not the account holder.
The witness replied: “That’s correct.”
Ojo also asked: ”So you have no direct knowledge of the transactions including lodgements, payments or deposits in relation to this account. ”
The witness replied “Correct.”
Ojo again asked: ” So, all other things were based on what you were told.”
The witness replied: “Yes”.
The trial will continue Oct. 22 (tomorrow)
While the case was pending before Justice Olatoregun, EFCC had opened trial on Nov. 19, 2018, and had called 13 witnesses out of its 15 listed witnesses.
However, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Hon.Justice Adamu Abdu-Kafarati transferred the case from Olatoregun to Aneke following a petition from the EFCC.
During the trial before Olatoregun, the prosecution had called witnesses from several commercial banks as well as a former Minister of State for Defence, Sen. Musiliu Obanikoro.
According to the charge, on June 17 2014, Fayose and one Abiodun Agbele were said to have taken possession of the sum of N1.2 billion for purposes of funding his gubernatorial election campaign in Ekiti which sum they reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.
Fayose was alleged to have received a cash payment of the sum of five million dollars (about N1.8 billion) from the then Minister of State for Defence, Sen. Musiliu Obanikoro, without going through any financial institution.
He was also alleged to have retained the sum of N300 million in his account and took control of the aggregate sum of about N622 million which sum he reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.
Fayose was alleged to have procured De Privateer Ltd and Still Earth Ltd to retain the aggregate sum of N851 million which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.
Besides, the defendant was alleged to have used the aggregate sum of about N1.6 billion to acquire properties in Lagos and Abuja which sums he reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.
He was also alleged to have used the sum of N200 million to acquire a property in Abuja in the name of his elder sister, Moji Oladeji, which sum he ought to know also formed crime proceeds.
The prosecution said the offences contravened the provisions of Sections 15(1), 15 (2), 15 (3), 16(2)(b), 16 (d) and 18 (c) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011.
By our correspondent