A Lagos State High Court, Ikeja, yesterday heard how a former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Bank PHB Plc, Mr Ugo Anyanwu, authorised the transfer of N23billion of depositors’ funds to some accounts without their owners’ approval.
An Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) investigator, Mr David Ikpe, said the beneficiaries of the transferred sums did not follow the due banking process of applying for a loan.
Anyanwu is standing trial before Justice Lateefah Okunnu, along with a former Managing Director of BankPHB, Mr Francis Atuche and his wife, Elizabeth.
The EFCC brought a 27-count charge bothering on alleged conspiracy to commit felony and stealing against them. It said they allegedly stole the bank’s N25.7 billion between November 2007 and April 2008. They denied the charges.
According to the agency, the three conspired with one another to steal from the bank various sums of money, which were fraudulently described as loans to various companies, including Future View Securities, Extra Oil Limited, Resolution Trust and Investment Limited, Petosan Oil and Gas and Tradjek Nigeria Limited.
Testifying at the trial yesterday, Ikpe said Anyanwu gave the instructions to other bank officials to make the transfers, using his position as CFO, adding that the transactions were “not normal.”
His investigations, he said, revealed that some officers who were asked to make the transfers “raised eyebrows.”
He said a bank official, Ifetayo Obi, complained that “she never had the customer’s instruction to transfer these funds.”
The witness said an official asked to make a transfer had written on the instruction document: ‘Customer Instruction Outstanding.’
“The conceptualisation and utility of the transfers were not normal. The beneficial owners ought to have applied and approval given. It was the impunity that characterised the banking sector in the past which brought us here,” Ikpe said.
According to him, the owner of one of the companies to which funds were transferred, Peter Ololo, expressed “shock” when his name was published as being indebted to Bank PHB.
“Ololo said he did not authorise the transfers. The transfers were made without the knowledge of the owner of the account,” the witness said, adding that Ololo was confronted as to why the accounts were debited.
Ikpe, however, admitted that no particular unit of shares was traced to Anyanwu’s account, and that the phone numbers and signatures on the transfer documents were not all of defendant’s.
He also said Anyanwu was not on the committee charged with granting loans, but insisted: “As the Chief Financial Officer, his role in authorising the payments is clear.”
“The third defendant (Anyanwu) authorised the transfer of the N23billion,” he said.
“That the third defendant ordered this transfer is not in doubt. I did not see these transactions as done in the normal course of banking transaction. I disagree that it was a normal transaction.”
Ikpe also admitted that he did not find any query in respect of the transfers Anyanwu authorised.
EFCC in the charge said the defendants allegedly converted N25.7 billion to their personal use to acquire hundreds of millions of units of shares, including 140,625,000 units of Bank PHB shares on behalf of Guesstrade Services.
They also allegedly used over N1 billion, fraudulently described as a loan from the bank and converted it to their own personal use by using it to buy 112,500,000 units of BankPHB shares on behalf of Sebtron Trading.
Other companies involved in the alleged multi-billion naira fraud are: Montrax Investico, Claremount Asset Management Limited, Arabian Probity Management, Clearville Business Support, Commercial Trading and Services Limited, Trenton Trade Limited, Stamford Global Concept Limited, Felimon Enterprises, Ghzali Yakubu Investment Limited and AFCO Associates Limited.
Atuche, Elizabeth and Anyanwu pleaded not guilty to all the counts.