By Kenneth Atavti
The trial of former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose began yesterday with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission calling witnesses.
Fayose, charged with N1.2 billion fraud, charges he had earlier pleaded not guilty to when he was arraigned on October 22 alongside his company, Spotless Investment Ltd on 11 counts.
At yesterday’s proceedings, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), the lead Counsel for the EFCC, called on first prosecution witness, Mr. Lawrence Akande, a banker.
The witness told the court that in June 2014, he was called by one Abiodun Agbele, who informed him that he had about N1.2 billion cash lodgement to make in Akure.
He told the court that afterward, he also received a call from Fayose on the same issue, adding that since the lodgement was in Akure, he placed a call across to his colleague in Akure to follow up same.
“This is all I know on this issue,” he said
When asked if he knew the second accused, (Spotless Ltd), he replied that the company is a customer of his bank with an account at Dugbe branch in Ibadan.
The prosecutor then showed the witness some account opening document of Spotless Nig. Ltd, De Privateer Ltd, Still Earth Ltd as well as account document of first accused.
The witness confirmed the document and they were admitted by the court and marked exhibit A.
When asked where the account of Fayose was domiciled, the witness replied: “It is not domiciled within my domain but from the document before me here I can see Apapa.”
The prosecutor then asked if the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) maintained an account with the bank.
To which the witness replied, “not only PDP but so many other political parties”
During cross-examination, the witness told the court that he made statements to the EFCC, on June 6, 2016, and confirmed that he made no mention of the first accused in his earlier statement
Being cross-examined by defense counsel, Kalu Agabi SAN, he said that he only made mention of Fayose in his subsequent statements.
Also during cross-examination by second defense counsel, Olalekan Ojo SAN, the witness told the court that he had worked in the banking sector for 28 years.
He confirmed to the court that a person who is not a signatory to an account cannot make withdrawals from such account.
According to the witness, there are withdrawal limits in every account and where withdrawals are to be made above the stipulated limits, it is reported to the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) to investigate such transaction.
EFCC then called its second witness, Mr. Abiodun Oshordi.
The witness introduced himself as the Zonal head of Diamond bank, covering South West 2 which includes, Ondo, Kwara, and Ekiti, adding that he also supervises all branches in the three localities.
The witness told the court that he received a call from his colleague (Akande) that Agbele will be coming to make some lodgments and that he should organize a bullion van.
He said that he waited for Agbele who arrived with one Sadiku and some escorts, adding that Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, the then Minister of State for Defence, and his aide, also accompanied them.
According to him, as soon as the aircraft arrived, he moved with the bullion van towards the plane to evacuate the money.
He said that the total sum amounted to N1.2billion, adding that they were lodged into accounts supplied by Agbele.
He said that they include: Spotless Nig. Ltd, De Privateer Ltd as well as a personal account of the first accused, while some cash were taken to Ado-Ekiti.
When asked to look at the deposits in the account of Spotless Ltd from June 17 to Aug 4, 2014, he told the court that there was a lodgment of N100million on June 17.
He said that on June 23, there was a cash lodgement of N49milion, on June 24, a cash lodgement of N200,000, while on Aug. 4, there was a cash lodgement of N40 million.
According to him, on the same Aug.4, there were also cash lodgements in the sums of N35million, N35million, N24million, N20million and N14 million respectively.
The witness told the court that Agbele made the deposit of June 17, while from the statement before him, he could see that it is written Ayo as depositor of the funds on Aug.4.
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun has adjourned until Jan.21 and 28 for the continuation of trial.
According to the EFCC, on June 17, 2014, Fayose and Agbele were said to have taken possession of the sum of N1.2 billion, for purposes of funding his gubernatorial election campaign in Ekiti State, 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 and which sum exceeded the amount allowed by law.
He was also alleged to have retained the sum of N300 million in his bank account and took control of the aggregate sums of about N622 million which sum he ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.
Fayose was alleged to have procured De Privateer Ltd and Still Earth Ltd, to retain in their two bank accounts, the aggregate sums of N851 million which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.
The offenses 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.