BY OMOH GABRIEL, BUSINESS EDITOR
A London High Court has found Dr. Erastus Akingbola, the erstwhile Managing Director of Intercontinental Bank Plc liable of unwholesome practices and misappropriation of the bank’s funds to the tune of N164 billion.
The court described the purchase of “shares in a box” as an insider dealing which is not an accepted best practice in civilized business dealing.
However a source close to Dr. Akingbola’s legal team in London, Peter and Peters law firm said they plan to appeal the judgment as all the needed documentation for the appeal were being assembled in London.
But one of Dr. Akingbola’s aide told Vanguard that they were not aware of the judgment and are waiting to be briefed. He said by the time they receive briefing from Akingbola’s lawyers in London they will respond appropriately.
We ‘ll appeal judgment— Akingbola’s aide
Dr. Erastus Akingbola has been involved in the civil litigation since his removal by the Central Bank Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi on August 14, 2009 and his subsequent flight to safety in London.
Explaining the matter came before him in London, Justice Burton said: “The litigation began in this country, not only because the Fuglers Claims related to (and led to injunctive relief in respect of) property in the UK, but primarily because the defendant left Nigeria and was, at the time of service of these proceedings, resident in London.
The proceedings began in respect of the Fuglers claims only on December 23, 2009, when an initial freezing order was made by Nicol J, increased by Blair J on January 25, 2010 to include the Tropics payments claim and continued until judgment or further order by Christopher Clarke J on February 12, 2010. The particulars of claim were amended to add the unlawful share purchase claim in July 2010.
“This case came on for trial on April 23, 2012, and the claimant has been represented, as it was before me in the summary judgment application, by Mr Simon Browne-Wilkinson QC and Mr Adam Zellick, instructed by Messrs Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP.
The defendant, although still instructing the same solicitors, Messrs Peters & Peters Solicitors LLP, has been represented for some time and for the purposes of this hearing by Mr Paul Chaisty QC. The hearing lasted for 26 days, concluding on June 1, 2012, subject only to the subsequent delivery of some short additional supplementary submissions/references.
After considerable discussion and with the agreement of parties, the course was taken whereby opening submissions by both counsel and the evidence for the claimant were given in the Commercial Court in London in the normal way, with a video link so that the defendant in Nigeria, with his Nigerian lawyers, could listen to and watch the hearing in London, with a contemporaneous transcript in addition.
At the close of the claimant’s case, the counsel and solicitors for both parties flew to Nigeria, and the evidence of the defendant and his witnesses was given in Nigeria, where counsel for both parties examined, cross-examined and re-examined them.
“I sat in London with the benefit of the same video conferencing facilities and contemporaneous transcript. Although the equipment broke down occasionally, and there was a small time-lag which inevitably meant that I would find myself speaking over counsel or the witness, and/or counsel or the witness would speak over me.
In a ruling delivered in London yesterday in the case against Dr Erastus Akingbola, Mr. Justice Burton ordered Mr. Erastus Akingbola to refund N164 billion being proceeds of “unlawful share purchase scheme” and fund misappropriation and converted into personal use while at the helm of affairs as Managing Director of former Intercontinental Bank Plc. The Court held that Dr. Akingbola devised and oversaw the implementation of the strategy to buy the bank’s shares.
Court alleges Akingbola lies under cross-examination
The court found under cross examination that Mr. Erastus Akingbola told obvious lies that he did not know that the bank was buying its own shares.
It was discovered that shortly before the implementation of the strategy to increase the bank’s share price with the intent of benefiting from the unethical and illegal scheme. Dr. Akingbola had borrowed a whooping sum of N9.3 billion to purchase a large quantity of the bank’s shares for himself.
The court held that the illegal share purchase scheme substantially contributed to the collapse of the erstwhile Intercontinental Bank Plc.
Further investigation by the court revealed that at a time the bank was undergoing significant liquidity strain, Dr. Erastus Akingbola misappropriated N16 billion which was paid to Tropics Companies, a business owned by his family to repay debts owed by the companies personally guaranteed by Dr. Akingbola.
Dr. Akingbola was found to have misappropriated another £8.5million which was paid to his English solicitors to complete the purchase of luxury properties in London in his name.
This judgment confirms with the findings of the Central Bank of Nigeria on some of the illegalities un-ravelled in the bank following the CBN special audit which led to the removal of some banks chief executives, including Dr. Erastus Akingbola.