A former Chairman of Wema Bank, Olapade Mohammed, has been arraigned before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly stealing about N2 billion belonging to a company, AKS Steel.
Olapade, who was also the Chairman of the company, was arraigned alongside the former Managing Director of the company, Tony Obinwa and a director, Sanni Aliyu Mohammed.
The trio were alleged to have fraudulently conspired with others still at large to launder about N2 billion belonging to AKS Steel through some Nigerian banks to Dubai in United Arab Emirates (UAE) and then India.
The funds were said to have been transferred without the company’s board resolution. They were said to have used another company identified as 3 Brothers Concept Nigeria Limited, to perpetrate the alleged crime.
The affected banks are Diamond Bank, United Bank for Africa (UBA), Spring Bank (now Enterprise Bank), Ecobank, Unity Bank, Intercontinental Bank (now Access Bank) and Equitorial Trust Bank (now Sterling Bank).
The accused persons were also alleged to have forged various documents and submitted same at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) with the aim of further committing monumental fraud.
The trio were said to have forged a board resolution of the company dated October 31, 2005 and filed it at the CAC on January 17, 2006 whereby they purportedly unilaterally increased 3, 250, 000 shares of AKS Alloy PVT Limited, and reduced the status of another investor, Shinning Star, from majority shareholder in the joint venture company of AKS Steel Nigeria Limited, whereas there was no Board meeting where such decision was made.
In one of the 32-count charges, the accused persons were said to have fraudulently stolen and converted to their use, a total of N1.2 billion belonging to the company, while Olapade was also said to have fraudulently converted another $500, 000 (USD) to his use.
The crime, which allegedly contravened various sections of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act of 2004, Criminal Code Laws of the Federation of 2004 and Miscellaneous Offences Act of 2004, was committed between January 2006 and March 2009.
Earlier, Justice Okon Abang had dismissed two separate applications by the accused persons seeking to quash the charges.
The accused had argued that the charges disclosed no prima facie case against them and that the charges were unknown to law.
They further contended that the EFCC had earlier exonerated them of the crime via a letter written to a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Wole Olanipekun (SAN).
But Justice Abang, in his ruling, held that the charges against the accused persons were very well known to law, adding that the mere typographical error in a criminal charge could not and should not serve as a basis to dismiss such charges.
His words: “I disagree with the learned counsel for the accused persons that the counts were unknown to law. They were charged for money laundering and mentioning the wrong section in the charge and year cannot, in my view, invalidate the charge”.
On the letter to Olanipekun, Justice Abang held that there was no law that says the EFCC cannot re-investigate an alleged crime that has not been decided by the court, adding that he was satisfied with a new report of investigation conducted by the EFCC which was contained in the further exhibit attached to the charge.
The judge then ordered the accused persons to take their pleas.
After their arraignment, they all pleaded not guilty, while their lawyers orally applied for bail.
The oral applications were not opposed by the EFCC lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), but he urged the court to impose a condition that would ensure the presence of the accused persons for trial.
Justice Abang then granted them bail in the sum of N20 million with two sureties each in like sum.
The sureties, according to the judge, shall be owners of landed property in Lagos, and shall deposit their title documents to the court.
The Deputy Chief Registrar of the Court in charge of litigation, according to the judge, must confirm the title documents at the Lands Registry, while the sureties shall also produce three years tax clearance certificate.
The sureties are also to swear to affidavit of means with their three recent passport photographs.
The judge remanded the accused persons in EFCC custody pending the fulfilment of their bail conditions, and fixed June 22 and 23 for trial.