Joseph Iwejuo: I’m not involved in alleged N1.6 billion fraud

Joseph Iwejuo: I'm not involved in alleged N1.6 billion fraud
A lawyer walks through the compound at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi district in Lagos, Nigeria, May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

An accused, Joseph Iwejuo, on Tuesday, told a Federal High Court, Lagos, that he only acted as an account officer to some companies joined in a N1.6 billion fraud charge preferred by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Iwejuo, a staff of Heritage Bank, is standing trial alongside Waripamo-Owei Dudafa, a former presidential aide, on charges of N1.6 billion fraud.

Also charged are some companies namely: Seagate Property Development & Investment Ltd, Avalon Global Property Development Company Ltd, Pluto Property and Investment Company Ltd, Ebiwise Resources Ltd, and Rotate Interlink Services Ltd.

EFCC arraigned them before Justice Mohammed Idris on 23-counts of conspiracy to conceal proceeds of crime amounting to over N5.1billion on June 11, 2013.

The prosecution closed its case on March 16, but the accused opted to make a no-case submission in its defence and urged the court to dismiss the case, on the grounds that the prosecution failed to establish any case against them.

Idris in a ruling delivered in August, dismissed the no case submission of the accused, on the grounds that they had some explanations to make on the exhibits and evidences tendered by prosecution.

He, consequently, ordered them to enter a defence.

When trial resumed on Tuesday, the second accused (Iwejuo) stepped into the witness box in continuation of his evidence, after he was reminded of his oath by the court’s registrar.

His lawyer, Ige Asemudara, resumed examination in chief as follows: “Witness, on the last adjourned date, you mentioned some companies with accounts in your bank; take a look at exhibit A, what can you tell the court about it,”

The witness told the court that the exhibit represents document brought by directors of the company (Avalon) on the day the account was opened for the company.

He said some of the directors as listed in the mandate form of the company includes one Oluwole Isaiah, Michael Agbo among others, adding that the names were then sent to the legal department of the bank for authentication.

According to the accused, when the corporate account was opened at the time, there was no requirement for a Bank Verification Number (BVN), but when a BVN became necessary, he drew the attention of the directors to the fact, who subsequently provided a BVN.

The accused told the court that he is not a shareholder of the company, and that the BVN was not generated from his bank, adding that the first deposit into the account was N100,000.

He also told the court that the said exhibit also showed inflows of payments into the account by some directors like Abubakar Murtala, and one Olugbenga, but said he knew nothing about the inflows.

The witness said one of the conditions for corporate account opening is the verification of the addresses of the companies, which he did in Lagos and Yenagoa.

According to the accused, he was taken to the three different offices of three companies including: Avalon, Seagate and Pluto, and was introduced as account officer.

He said such verification visit was conducted only once, “except where there was a change of address or such other necessary changes which would require another visit.’’

The accused told the court that he was surprised when after seven days in custody of the EFCC, he was taken back to the addresses of the same companies and he discovered that the addresses had changed.

He said Seagate, which occupied No. 200 as its office address had what looked like a large hall, and the office space occupied by Avalon had A1 Global Integrated Driving School in its place, while Pluto was replaced by a BDC office.

The witness told the court that he had no knowledge of the changes in address as the company had not written to the bank to inform it.

He told the court that he only acted as an account officer in these scenarios, and urged the court to discharge him of the charges.

Under cross examination the Prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, asked the witness, “when were you born” and the witness replied March 24, 1972.

Prosecutor: “But your school certificate bears June 7, 1974, how come?

In response, the witness told the court that the date was an error which was immaterial.

Oyedepo: “I put it to you that prior to April 10, 2003, documents emanating from your school shows you were using documents containing June 7, 1974 as your date of birth.

Witness: “No, I have said it’s a mistake,”

Oyedepo asked “who is Micheal Ahunnaya to you and the witness replied “he is my brother from the same town.

Oyedepo: “He made an age declaration for you before a customary court in Ogun, and you presented this bearing June 7, 1974 as your date of birth to your employer at the time”

The witness replied yes.

The continuation of trial will resume on September 25.

The offences for which the accused are being tried, contravene the provisions of Sections 17(a), 18 (c), and 27 (3) (c) of the EFCC Establishment Act 2004.

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