While the trial of former Bank BHB manager, Mr. Francis Atuche and his wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Atuche is still throwing up new angles with Lagos-based economist, Prof. Pat Utomi appearing as star witness over alleged N27billion Bank loan fraud perpetrated during Atuche’s term as head of the Bank’s board, some interim top officials of the financial institution are now mired in a fresh fraud scandal involving N855m.
Bank BHB is now Keystone Bank.
Anayo Nwosu, a deupty manager; Ashok Isran, an Indian National; and Olajide Oshodi and Sunny Obazee, both Managers, are standing trial alongside NULEC Industries Limited and Keystone Bank before Justice Kudirat Jose of the Lagos High Court in Ikeja.
At the resumed proceedings today, a prosecution witness for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Chukwuma Orji, opened with an account of how the top officials of Keystone Bank connived with the Indian national, Mr. Isran, to deceive Mr. Daniel Chukwudozie, a Managing Director of Dozzy Oil and Gas Limited, to part with the sum of N855m under a spurious private share placement deal.
The defendants pleaded not guilty to the two-count charge of conspiracy and fraud.
Mr. Orji said in the court that one of the defendants, Mr. Anayo, carefully concealed the bankrupt status of NULEC Industries Limited to their victims, Mr. Chukwudozie and his company, convincing them to invest N285m in NULEC Industries through the phony private placement. The witness disclosed that even before the private placement was opened on 25th July, 2008, the defendants had allegedly withdrawn a large proportion of the funds and wired the rest abroad.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, part by part, to various accounts traced to Mr. Isran in Nigeria.
The witness further told the court from the investigation that Mr. Anayo, being the account officer to NULEC in Keystone Bank fully knew that the firm was indebted up to N130million to the Bank, but his desperation for promotion led him to hoodwink the victim into investing the N285m.
From Mr. Orji’s testimony, the first action by the alleged managers on the invested fund was to settle NULEC company’s N130million 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 Nuclec Industries shares,” the witness said.
The alleged withdrawal of funds invested by the victim was done by the defendants between 15th and 16th of July, 2008, about nine days before 25th of July, when the share placement, howbeit fraudulent, would commence as they indicated to their victim.
“He was aware that the fifth defendant, Nulec Industries Limited was indebted to Bank PHB 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 namely 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 said 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.
Further hearing was adjourned till 20th November, 2013 for continuation of trial.