By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – An official of Zenith Bank Plc, Olabode Farinuola, on Monday, told the Federal High Court in Abuja that cousin to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Robert Azibola, who is facing trial over alleged $40million contract scam, was a “high profile networth customer” of the bank.
Farinuola who is a Compliance Manager at the bank, insisted that the fund Azibola allegedly received from office of the National Security Adviser, NSA, through his company’s account, Oneplus Holdings Limited, was inconsequential considering the kind of transactions the firm earlier conducted with the bank.
Azibola and his wife, Stella, are answering to a seven-count criminal charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against them by .
The bank official testified as the second prosecution witness, PW-2.
While being cross-examined by counsel to the defendants, Mr. Gordy Uche, SAN, the witness, said the level of in-flow of cash into Oneplus and its sister company, Kakatar CE Limited, made Robert and his wife one of the biggest customers of Zenith bank.
He told the court that the two companies have several big construction projects cutting across the country, especially in Abuja.
“They are net-worth accounts with Zenith Bank Plc. The accounts are very busy as the company is handling several high-profile construction projects for the federal government and its agencies”, he told the court.
He further stated that he does not know the purpose the $40m was paid into OnePlus account by the ONSA, and the purpose to which it was disbursed.
However, Farinuola maintained that the bank complied with all regulations for opening a corporate account for Oneplus Holdings under the Know Your Customer, KYC, principle.
Asked by the defence counsel if, as a compliance officer, the bank ever received any complaint of any form of financial misconduct from any law enforcement agency against the defendants, the witness replied in the negative.
He said the only letter the bank got from EFCC requested for information on the account opening package of Oneplus Holdings.
“No other agency has written to question any financial transaction by OnePlus Holdings”, he stated.
It will be recalled that the witness had in his earlier testimony on October 6, said he never met any of the accused persons, nor had anything to do with them or their companies.
Led in evidence by EFCC lawyer, Mr. Sylvanus Tahir, the witness said: “On January 22, 2016, we received a letter from EFCC on investigation activities on OnePlus Holdings Limited on the domiciliary account requesting for the account opening documentation, the statement of account, and a certificate of identification, which we accordingly forwarded to EFCC”.
Under cross examination on Monday, Mr. Farinuola, reiterated that he has never met any of the accused persons in life, and was meeting them for the first time in court.
He said he only knew that Zenith bank classified them as High Networth Individuals,HNI, who were well respected by the bank.
Meanwhile, trial Justice Nnamdi Dimgba has adjourned further hearing on the matter till Friday.
Justice Dimgba had in a ruling on June 8, granted the defendants who are facing trial alongside their firm, Oneplus Holding Limited, bail to the tune of N1billion.
They were directed to deposit N500million each, as well as produce two sureties in the like sum.
The court held that the sureties must be owners of landed properties in either Maitama or Asokoro Ditrsicts of Abuja and must produce evidence that they paid income tax for the past three years.
The defendants were remanded in Kuje Prison until they were able to perfect the bail terms.
Azibaola was docked with his wife after he had spent 80 days in custody of the EFCC.
Meanwhile, charges against the defendants attract punishment varying from 7 to 14 years imprisonment upon conviction.
One of the charge against the defendants read: “That you Azibaola Robert being the Managing Director / Chief Executive Officer and a signatory to the Zenith Bank account of One Plus Holdings Nigeria Limited, Mrs. Stella Azibaola Robert, being a director and a signatory to the account of One Plus Holdings Nigeria Limited and Amobi Ogum( now at large) on or about 8th September, 2014 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did conspire among yourselves to commit an illegal act to wit: money laundering of the sum of $40million transferred to the domiciliary account of One Plus Holdings Nigeria Limited with Zenith Bank, Account No. 5070365750 from the account of ONSA with the Central Bank of Nigeria upon a mandate Ref. No. 128/S.5LX/139 purporting to be for the supply of Tactical Communication Kits for Special Services and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 8(a) of the Money Laundering( Prohibition) Act 2011 as amended in 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act”.