By Innocent ANABA
The four former Managing Director and Chief Executive Officers of Oceanic bank, Mrs Cecilia Ibru; FinBank Nigeria Plc, Mr Okey Nwosu; Mr Sebastian Adigwe of Afribank Plc and Bartholomew Ebong of Union Bank of Nigeria, who are presently standing trial before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, will spend the next 10 days in detention, as the court yesterday, adjourned ruling on their bail applications to September 14, 2009.
They will spend the nest four days in detention when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), yesterday, opposed the bail applications of the accused persons, the four former bank MDs,Â Â eight bank directors and one bank debtor, who are standing trial on five separate charges of 131 counts, bordering on fraud, concealment and grant of loans without adequate collateral, running into about N625.95billion.
Even though the trial proper is yet to commence the accused persons,Â the EFCC yesterday, hinted that it will soon bring additional fresh charges against them, adding that the case files are being studied, as more charges would be filed.
Mr Balarabe Mahmoud (SAN), who led the prosecutingÂ team, told Vanguard at the premises of the Federal High Court, Lagos yesterday, when asked on the possibility of more charges being brought against the bank chiefs, said â€œwe are reviewing the charges and certainly, there will be more charges filed. As soon as we finish reviewing the cases, we will file more charges against them (bank chiefs)â€.
The court adjourned rulingon the bail applications of Cecilia Ibru, Bartholomew Ebong and Sebastian Adigwe till Monday, September 14, while the court will rule on the bail applications of Intercontinental bank non-executive members and Okey Nwosu on Tuesday, September 15.
Meanwhile, Cecilia, Okey Nwosu,Â and Intercontinental bank non-executive members,Â Dr. Raymond Obieri, Engr. Hynacinth Enuha, Christopher Alabi, Chief Samuel Adegbite, Alhaji Isyaku Umar, Mr. Bayo Dada and Elder Sanni Adams and Bartholomew Ebong, Henry Onyemem and Niyi Opeodu were ordered remanded in EFCC custody, whileÂ Sebastian Adigwe and Peter Ololo were ordered remanded at Ikoyi Prison.
EFCC in opposition to the bail application of the accused persons, argued that the offences for which all the 15 suspects were being held were very grave offences that bordered on economic sabotage and threats to the economic health of the nation and that it (EFCC) had incontrovertible evidences to the effect that many of the suspects, if admitted to bail, would interfere with the trial by influencing prosecution witnesses.
The commission argued that it was still investigating other complaints against them bordering on money laundering, fraudulent acquisition of properties and mismanagement of depositors funds and that many of the proposed prosecution witnesses are now apprehensive and some are in protective custody as a result of continues threats to their lives by the agents of the accused persons and persons connected with them, hence the accused persons should not be granted bail.
On Cecilia Ibru, specifically, EFCC argued that she unilaterally granted unsecured credit facilities in the sum of N13bllion to her Nanny, one Priscilia Bedella and the said nanny has now escaped from jurisdiction of the court with her (Ceciliaâ€™s) connivance and assistance and that one Dele Oye, who was acting as a front for her and who collected unsecured credit facilities running into billions of naira has now escaped from jurisdiction of the court and it will not be in the interest of justice to grant her bail.
According to the commission, â€œwe know as a fact that the evidence gathered against her is overwhelming and she may likely escape from jurisdiction if granted bailâ€, adding that the Commission is still investigating other complaints against her bordering on money laundering, fraudulent acquisition of properties and mismanagement of depositors funds against her and other accused persons.
EFCC said that the investigation has reached an advance stage and sheÂ may be charged to court any time from now in respect of those other offences, the same argument it advanced against the bail of the other accused persons.
Meanwhile, defence counsel argued that the accused persons will make themselves available to face the charge against them. In the case of Cecilia Ibru, her counsel argued that she will not jump bail and will present herself in court throughout her trial.
Her counsel prayed the court to admit her to bail, contending that she has no intention to and will not interfere with investigation and/or witnesses of the prosecution before or during trial of the case, adding she is ready and willing to sign such undertaking or give such assurance as may be required by the court to secure her presence whenever it is required and not to tamper or interfere with the prosecutionâ€™s investigations and witnesses throughout the pending trial.
Meanwhile, Adigwe, Nwaosu, Ebong and the other accused persons in their respective bail applications, prayed the court to admit them to bail on liberal terms, contending that some of them were earlier granted bail by the EFCC and they had met same, though the commission did not release them.
They contended that they will not in any way interfere with the prosecution witnesses and will not jump bail, but present themselves in court to face the charged against them.
Meanwhile, EFCC spoke person, Femi Babafemi, said yesterday, that it is making frantic efforts to recover loans amounting to N747billion granted various individuals and organisations by the five banks. Till date, the Commission had recovered over N67billion from loan defaulters, who were initially given seven days within which to repay their loans to the banks.
The arraignment of the 16 suspects is the biggest single arraignment made by the EFCC since its inception in 2003, the commission said in a statement.