Fayose’s trial: We solicited patronage but evidence based on what I was told, EFCC’s witness tells court
The trial of former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, facing money laundering charges resumed on Monday, before a Federal High Court in Lagos.
A prosecution witness, Mr Lawrence Akande, called by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), during his cross-examination told the court that the statements he wrote while in EFCC custody and his evidence before the court were what he was told.
However, Akande the first prosecution witness and a banker with a second-generation bank who testified at the resumed trial of Fayose admitted that his bank solicited patronage from the embattled former Governor of Ekiti State, Mr Ayodele Fayose,
Also, when asked further under cross-examination by defence counsel, Olalekan Ojo (SAN) whether he (Akande) had direct knowledge of the transactions in question, he said he had no knowledge.
Ojo asked; “Do you also further confirm that all that you stated in your statements to EFCC were based on what you were told?”
Akande said; “Correct.”
He also said he was not told how much was to be deposited into the account, where the money was coming from and what the fund was meant for.
Fayose is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over N6.9 billion fraud and money laundering charges.
Fayose 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.
Akande, who was the South-West Zonal Head of the bank had earlier informed the court that he was called by the former governor that there will be a business transaction in his account in Akure branch of the bank and he called Biodun Osode, who was based in Akure to handle the transaction.
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.
Akande 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 would 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.
When also asked by counsel to the first defendant, Ola Olanipekun (SAN) whether it was in the course of this transaction that he met Fayose for the first time, the witness said; “No, he was my governor first and the second term.”
The witness also told the court that it was impossible for anyone to make withdrawals from a corporate bank account outside the introduction given by the signatories to the account and in the event of alterations to any instruction by the account signatories, the signatories must make another written instruction and sign.
Earlier, the EFCC Counsel, Adebisi Adeniyi, had sought to withdraw documents he tendered through Akande when the defence counsel objected to the admissibility of the documents on the ground that the witness through whom the prosecutor sought to tender them was not the maker of the documents.
Consequent upon complaint of bias against Justice Olatoregun by the prosecution, the defendants were subsequently re-arraigned before Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke, on July 2.
According to Akande, 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.
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.
The 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.”
The defence asked: “At all times, you knew the defendant to be someone of a 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 the 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”.
Meanwhile, the Fayose’s case has been adjourned till tomorrow, October 22 for a continuation of trial.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that 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.
Fayose 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.