Funke Busari, Lagos
The trial of Access Bank and its Regional Manager, Sydney Nmeka continues before an Ikeja Special Offence, Court in Lagos.
Access Bank and its Regional Mana Sydney Nmeka were accused of forging series of cheques, falsification of documents and stealing the sum of N50 million from an account belonging to one of its customers, Aerol Hotels Limited.
The defendants are standing trial on a five count charges bothering on conspiracy to commit felony, stealing, forgery, using false documents and false accounting.
The anti-graft Agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, alleged that the defendants (Nmeka and Access bank), committed the offence sometime in 2014 in Lagos.
According to the charge, those standing trial used false documents (forged cheques) to authorise the illegal transfer of money from account No: 088952246 belonging to Aerols Hotel Ltd to other persons with intent that it may in a way be used as having been made by the customer.
A prosecution witness, Mr. Babatunde Emmanuel, who is a hotelian and owner of Aerols Hotel Ltd, narrated how Nmeka used his position to forged his signature to divert funds from his company’s loan account into other fraudulently non-existing/ unregistered companies, with the bank, without his consent.
He narrated further that he met Nmeka sometime in February 2014 as the then Regional Manager Access bank, Festac Branch, approached him with a bank loan offer.
He claimed an agreement was reached for the loan if N50m which he later realised that the money was far much than what he needed.
He said put a call across to Nmeka to return part of the money. But he advised that the money would be going to my loan account and that he can sign the cheque for him to be crediting the loan account.
He however expressed surprise that the loan kept going up, even without my effort of repaying. This prompted the company, Aerol Hotel Ltd, engaged the services of an auditor to audit its account with Access bank and the auditor discovered illegal and fraudulent transactions of debits in the account”.
The witness said that the auditor found out that his signature was forged and used to withdraw very large sums from the account in favour of individuals and companies.
“He told the court that these companies were used to divert the funds paid to the loan account towards paying down on the facility/loan account.
“Again, the sum of N15m paid for the reduction of the loan was fraudulently and criminally diverted to Sizu International company Limited rather than the purpose of loan liquidation.
“I do not know these companies neither have I ever dealt with them personally or otherwise,”the 49-year-old businessman said.
During cross examination, the witness was asked by the defence counsel, the reason he issued different post dated cheques said that he trusted what the defendant told him and he never for once thought a bank manager would steal and defraud him or his company.
According to him, “He is the bank manager and I trusted him. That is why when he told me that I could issue those cheques, I did.”
When also asked if the cheques he complained about was used to take money out of the company accounts and who signed it, the witness replied, “I signed some, and didn’t sign some.”
The witness further said that he never knew what was going on in the account until forensic analysis was carried out on the instruction of his lawyer.
“I don’t do electronic transfers yet, some of this was known after forensic analysis was done on the account that a huge amount of money had gone out without my consent.
The matter was further adjourned till the October 25, 2021 for continuation of trial.