Witness stuns EFCC at Finbank chiefs trial

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An employee of Finbank Plc, Mr Ifeanyi Obiekwe, on Tuesday exonerated the bank’s former Managing Director, Okey Nwosu, and three other directors, of the theft charges preferred against them. Obiekwe, who is Finbank’s Head of Financial Control Department, exonerated the four accused while testifying at their trial in an Ikeja High Court.

Nwosu and three former directors of Finbank Plc, Dayo Famuroti, Danjuma Ocholi and Agnes Ebubedike were charged to court for allegedly stealing N10.9 billion belonging to the bank. The four accused persons were arraigned on May 10, 2011 before Justice Lateefat Okunnu on a 26-count charge of stealing.

However, the witness, who was called by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to testify against them, told the court that they acted in the bank’s interest.

Obiekwe, under cross-examination by the defence team of Messrs Lanre Ogunlesi, Ifedayo Adedipe and Yemi Sowemimo (all Senior Advocates), said they only traded in the bank’s shares.

He said: “All the transactions involving the bank and Springboard Trust and Investment Limited were done with the approval of the board. The monies were transferred from Finbank’s Merger Expense Account to Springboard for the purpose of trading on the bank’s shares which was witnessing a boom during that period.
Three companies, acting as Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs), were used to acquire the shares and the companies, to the best of my knowledge, were owned by Finbank.
I am not aware that any of the accused persons benefitted from the transactions because they were done in the interest of the bank.
They did not steal the bank’s money.”

Obiekwe, however, maintained that it was improper for the bank to trade on its own shares, adding that the transactions were also done in secret.

“The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was not aware of the companies used for the transactions until it took over the bank in August 2009,” he said.

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The witness had earlier testified that the accused persons authorised and transferred billions of naira between September 2006 and November 2007 to the account of Springboard Trust and Investment Ltd.

Obiekwe, who was led in evidence by EFCC prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Jacobs, claimed the transactions were kept confidential and he was only aware of them through available records.

He said the original documents were prepared by the bank’s former Head of Investment Banking, Mr Akan Okon, who had them in his custody.

“We could not locate the original documents because Mr Okon is no longer with the bank and we have searched extensively for them,” the witness said.

A certified true copy of the transaction documents was admitted as exhibit by the court.

The matter was then adjourned till Wednesday for continuation of trial.