An official of Stanbic IBTC Plc, Mr. Adedayo Adesanmi, told the Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday that the accounts of a businessman, Jide Omokore, with the bank and into which $1.6bn proceeds of sales of the Federal Government’s crude oil were allegedly diverted, had been closed as a result of “a worldwide freezing order.”
Adesanmi, who is a Senior Manager with the bank and the Relationship Manager for the two companies’ accounts, disclosed this while testifying as the fourth prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of Omokore and others before Justice Nnamdi Dimgba.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is prosecuting Omokore, his two companies, Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Limited, and others on nine counts of criminal diversion of about $1.6bn alleged to be part of proceeds of sales of petroleum products belonging to the Federal Government.
The other defendants are a former Managing Director of the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, Victor Briggs; a former Group Executive Director, Exploration and Production of the NNPC, Abiye Membere; and a former Manager, Planning and Commercial of the NNPC, David Mbanefo.
Late last year, one of the counts in which the name of the immediate-past Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, who was said to be Omokore’s ally was mentioned, was struck out by the court following an application by the former minister’s lawyers.
Fielding questions from the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), on Wednesday, Adesanmi had said each of the Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Limited, had a naira and dollar accounts with Stanbic IBTC.
He explained to the court how the funds were paid into separate dollar accounts of the two companies by Glencore, London.
However, the issue of the closing down of the accounts was raised by a defence lawyer, Mr. Adeniyi Adegbonmire (SAN), while cross-examining the witness.
Adesanmi answered in the affirmative when Adegbonmire asked him if he knew that something “occurred in those accounts that necessitated the accounts being closed.”
Answering further questions from the defence lawyer, the witness said the payments into the accounts were “proceeds of sales of crude oil,” but admitted that nothing on the statements of accounts described the entries as such.
After the witness was cross-examined by the defence lawyers, he was again re-examined by the prosecuting counsel, during which he explained that the accounts of the companies were closed as a result of a worldwide freezing order.
Adegbonmire had objected to the question being asked on the grounds that it did not qualify as a re-examination question, but the judge overruled him.
Responding to Jacobs’ question of why the accounts were closed, the witness said, “The bank got a worldwide freezing order. There were also negative press generated by the accounts and frequent invitation from security agencies because of the accounts.”
Earlier, the prosecution had tendered the statements of the four accounts and other relevant documents including the ones dealing with the incorporation of the two companies, account opening packages and instruction mandates authorising various transactions on the accounts.
The documents were tendered and admitted as exhibits by the court without any objection from the defence lawyers.
The witness gave a breakdown of how a total sum of $563,983,556.53 was paid between the period of June 2013 and July 2014 into the dollar account of the Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited, a firm which he said was incorporated on February 5, 2013.
According to him, the first tranche of $11,135,517.30 was paid into the account on June 14, 2013, barely four months after the company was incorporated.
Reading from the account statement, he said, “The period covered by the statement covers April 4, 2013 to September 3, 2015 (account statement range).
“There was no other entry before the beginning of the range.
“The first entry on the account of the Atlantic Energy Brass Development was on June 14, 2013 and it was a credit of $11,135,517.30. The amount that entered the account was from Glencore, United Kingdom.
“On July 11, 2013 there was an inflow of $79,408,556. 24. On July 19, 2013 there was an inflow of $19,570,062.69. There were other inflows from June 2013 to July 2014.”
At that point, Justice Dimgba noted that it was unnecessary for the witness to read out the entries on the statement one after the other as “the document speaks for itself.”
Taking his cue from the judge’s advice, Jacobs asked Adesanmi to give only a summary of the entries into the account.
Responding to further questions, the witness said, “Yes there were other inflows from Glencore, London. The total credit was $563,983,556.53 between the period of June 2013 and July 2014.”
For Atlantic Drilling Concept Limited the witness said, “There were entries of both debit and credit in the naira and dollar accounts.”
Under cross-examination by a defence lawyer, Mr. Lawal Rabana, Adesanmi said he made two statements to the EFCC, the second being made on November 8, 2017.
He confirmed that it was correct that the transactions as recorded by him in his statement to the EFCC “followed a normal banking transaction.”
Under cross-examination by another defence counsel, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), Adesanmi admitted that the bank had a money laundering compliance officer and that the bank never had any cause to query any of the accounts for money laundering activities before the charges against the defendants were instituted.
The trial continues on Thursday (today).