By Bartholomew Madukwe
LAGOS— A mild drama ensued, yesterday, at the Lagos High Court in Ikeja as an operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Usman Zakari, told a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Mr Obi Vincent, that he was frustrated.
During cross-examination of the witness in the ongoing trial of top officials of Bank PHB (now Keystone Bank), Vincent, who is counsel to three defendants, noted that the witness was getting frustrated.
“No, I am not. It is you who are frustrated here,” the witness responded.
This was as counsel on both sides exchanged words before the trial judge, Justice Kudirat Jose, when a counsel holding brief for the complainant, Mr Ugwuzor Adindu, accused the defendants of talking from the dock and disrupting proceedings.
The defendants are Nulec Industries Limited and Bank PHB/Keystone Bank, Anayo Nwosu, Ashok Isran, Olajide Oshodi, Sunny Obazee, both managers of the bank.
They are standing trial over conspiracy to publish false statement contrary to Section 436 (b) of the Criminal Code, CAP C17, Vol. 2, Laws of Lagos State of Nigeria, 2003.
According to the 12-count charge brought against the defendants, they deceived one Mr. Daniel Chukwudozie, Managing Director of Dozzy Oil and Gas Limited, to part with N855 million under a spurious private share placement deal.
“Anayo Nwosu, Ashok Irani, Olajide Oshodi, Sunny Obazee, Bank PHB/Keystone Bank Ltd, being promoters of Nulec Industries Limited, shares subscription by private placement between June and September 2008 within the jurisdiction of this honourable hourt conspired to publish a written statement to wit: a private placement memorandum with intent to induce Dozzy Oil & Gas Ltd, to buy shares of Nulec Industries Limited which to your knowledge is false,” count one states.
The case was adjourned to March 27 and May 4 for continuation of trial.
However, the defendants pleaded not guilty to the two-count charge of conspiracy and fraud.
Orji had told the court that one of the defendants, Anayo, carefully concealed the bankrupt status of NULEC Industries Limited to their victims, Chukwudozie and his company, convincing them to invest N285m in NULEC Industries through the phony private placement.
The witness further disclosed that even before the private placement was opened on July 25, 2008, the defendants had allegedly withdrawn a large proportion of the funds and wired the rest abroad.
He, however, pointed out that the wired sum was later returned in parts to various accounts traced to Isran in Nigeria.
The witness further told the court from the investigation that Anayo, being the account officer to NULEC in the bank, fully knew that the firm was indebted up to N130million to the bank, but hoodwinked the victim to invest N285 million due to his desperation for promotion.
According to the witness, the first action by the alleged managers on the invested fund was to settle NULEC company’s N130 million indebtedness to the bank before transferring the remaining sum to Risa Enterprises in Switzerland, a firm purportedly owned by Isran.
“Our investigation indicated that the first defendant, Anayo Nwosu, as the account officer of NULEC Industries Limited was aware that NULEC was indebted to various banks such as UBA, GTB, ACCESS Bank and Bank PHB, but his desperation for promotion led him to approach Gozzy Oil and Gas to invest in Nulec Industries shares.
“He was aware that the fifth defendant, Nulec Industries Limited, was indebted to the bank in question to the tune of N130 million when he approached the MD of Gozzy Oil and Gas for the share offer. ‘’For the purpose of the offer, an account was opened with the bank, named Private Placement Account, while there was another account called Operation Account through which the company conducted its daily affairs.
“Our investigation also indicated that immediately the Operating Account of Nulec Industries Limited was credited, N130million was fraudulently removed and used to offset indebtedness of the company to the bank out of the N285 million outstanding, while the remaining fund was wired to the offshore account of Risa Enterprises in Switzerland.
‘’The fact from our investigation revealed that the businessman fraudulently lost the money before the commencement of the shares offer,” the witness disclosed.
EFCC alleged that the withdrawal of funds invested by the victim was done by the defendants between July 15 and 16, 2008, about nine days before July 25 date of the share placement, though fraudulently.
The commission maintained that it was able to confirm that there was no error that the fund was paid to the Operation Account rather than Private Placement Account, stating that it was a well-scripted fraud by all the defendants in the suit