By Innocent Anaba
LAGOS—FORMER Chief Executive Officer of Intercontinental Bank, Erastus Akingbola, arraigned before a Federal High Court in Lagos on a 22_count charge of fraud, granting of reckless credit facilities, abuse of office and mismanagement of depositors’ funds was, yesterday, granted bail in the sum of N2billion.
Akingbola who was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, was admitted to bail in the sum of N500million and three sureties, who must be Nigerian citizens in like sum, bringing the total to N2billion.
He was also ordered to report to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, office every first working day of the week, until the court ordered otherwise.
The court not only ordered him to deposit his international passport with the Registrar but also barred him from travelling outside the country, till the matter was finally determined.
The trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, who held that the offences Akingbola was charged with by the anti-graft agency were bailable, stressed that the three sureties must show evidence of tax payment for the past eight years and be property owners within the jurisdiction of the court.
He further ordered that the title documents of the said property owned by the sureties must be confirmed to be genuine by appropriate authorities, while same would be deposited with the Registrar of the court.
Justifying the bail, the court held that the EFCC had failed to show the court that Akingbola was declared wanted before he travelled out of the country as the newspaper tendered by the commission was not admitted, and not certified, adding that this was inadmissible in law.
The court held that the EFCC also failed to prove that Akingbola had any knowledge that a process had been commenced for his extradition from the United Kingdom before he returned to the country.
The court said the accused person had no previous criminal record that could prevent his grant of bail, stressing that since he was no longer involved in the running of the bank, he could not influence investigation or interfere with evidence or witnesses.
The judge said: “Judges have been warned not to mistake discretion for dram as sensational bail conditions achieve nothing but hit the headlines of newspapers. It is for this reason that the accused person is admitted to bail.”
EFCC had, in its counter affidavit in opposition to the bail, alleged that Akingbola withdrew several billions of naira from the bank and credited same to the account of his wife’s company and other companies in which he is either a major shareholder or director.
The companies, according to EFCC, are Summit Finance Company Limited, Tropics Holdings Limited, Tropics Securities Limited, Tropics Finance & Investments Company Limited and Tropics Properties Limited.
Akingbola’s wife, Anthonia, is said to be the Managing Director of Tropics Finance Limited.
EFCC averred that Akingbola would not have returned to the country to face the criminal charge against him but for the extradition proceedings initiated against him in the United Kingdom by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, adding that Akingbola might be tempted to jump bail considering the cumulative 100 years jail term if convicted.
EFCC said that Akingbola allegedly transferred about £10.9 million from Intercontinental Bank’s account to Fuglers Solicitors’ client account in London, when the said firm never performed any obligation for Intercontinental Bank.
It further alleged that Akingbola illegally transferred about N8.2 billion from Intercontinental Bank’s account to the account of Summit Finance Company Limited, a company in which he is the major shareholder.
Akingbola, was also accused of creating or causing to be created a false or misleading appearance of active trading in the shares of Intercontinental Bank on the Nigerian Stock Exchange by approving utilisation of N179,385,000,000 of the bank’s funds for the purchase of the bank’s shares between November, 2007 and July, 2008.