Magu

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Monday presented its 11th witness in a case of alleged money laundering it preferred against former Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State.

The witness, Mr. Sunday Alade, was the Akure branch manager of the Zenith Bank Plc in 2014 when N1.2bn was allegedly moved to the branch.

The EFCC arraigned Fayose on 11 counts of money laundering on October 22, 2018, alongside a company, Spotless Investment Ltd.

He pleaded not guilty to the charge and was granted bail in the sum of N50m, with one surety in like sum.

The EFCC opened its case on November 19, 2018. On January 21, 2019, the Commission called its fifth witness, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, a former Minister of State for Defence.

Led in evidence on Monday (today) by EFCC counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), Alade testified that he received a telephone call from the bank’s head of operations then, asking him to head to the Akure Airport to receive an amount of money from a customer.

“On June 17, 2014, I was in my office when I received a call from my Head of Operations, Abiodun Oshodi, saying that a customer would be coming to make a deposit into his account with the bank.

“He said in order to provide security, we should arrange for a bullion van to go to the airport to pick the cash.

“After an hour, my Head of Operations, Abiodun Oshodi, came and said the customer had arrived. He introduced Abiodun Agbele as the customer.

“He said we should prepare to go to the airport; I asked for time to arrange for security, but they said that won’t be necessary as they had sufficient security.

“They came with MOPOL (mobile policemen) and some soldiers in a Hilux van,” Alade testified.

The witness said that he accompanied Oshodi and Agbele to the airport, along with the bullion van and security men.

Alade said, “At the airport, we waited for a few minutes before the arrival of the aircraft. Three individuals came out of the aircraft.

“Two of them walked away. The remaining person introduced himself as O. Adewale.

“The cash was offloaded into the bullion van, and we drove to Zenith Bank, Akure.”

He testified that when they arrived at the bank, the money was counted in his presence, adding that Oshodi, Adewale and Agbele were also present.

“The money was counted. It was N724m. We were informed that there was a balance. We went back to the airport and picked N494m.

“The total cash amounted to N1.219bn. Another aircraft brought the N494m. I gathered that the cash was lodged into three bank accounts – those of De-Privateer, Spotless Investment and Ayodele Fayose.

“I also understand that some cash was taken away that day by Mr. Agbele,” he told the court.

When asked by the prosecution counsel who Adewale was, the witness said, “Adewale O. introduced himself as Obanikoro’s ADC.”

Asked if he knew those who walked away from the aircraft when it landed, the witness said, “One of them resembled Obanikoro. I never met him in person, but he resembled the person I saw on television and in newspapers.”

Under cross-examination by defence counsel, Mr. Ola Olanipekun (SAN) and Olalekan Ojo (SAN), the witness said that he was not aware of where the money came from.

On whether he knew what the money was meant for, the witness said, “Not at all.”

Justice Mojisola Olatoregun adjourned the case until May 10 for continuation of trial.

According to the EFCC, on June 17, 2014, Fayose and one Agbele allegedly took possession of N1.2bn for the purpose of funding his gubernatorial election campaign.

The EFCC said that the defendants reasonably ought to have known that the sum formed part of crime proceeds.

The anti-graft agency also accused Fayose of receiving a cash payment of $5m (about N1.8bn) from the then Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro, without going through any financial institution and which sum exceeded the amount allowed by law.

It also alleged that Fayose retained N300m in his bank account and took control of about N622m which he ought to have known was part of crime proceeds.

The EFCC also claimed that Fayose unlawfully used N1.6bn to acquire property in Lagos and Abuja, adding that he used N200m to acquire a property in Abuja in the name of his elder sister, Moji Oladeji, which sum also formed crime proceeds.

The alleged offences contravene Sections 15(1), 15 (2), 15 (3), 16(2)(b), 16 (d), and 18 (c) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011.

(NAN)