Nigeria News

Intercontinental: Can Akingbola Rewrite History?

With the invitation of the suspended Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi; the erstwhile chief executive of Intercontinental Bank, Mr. Erastus Akingbola; the former Managing Director/CEO of Access Bank Plc, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede; and his successor, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, by the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRC), market analysts have questioned Akingbola’s attempt to rewrite history.
Akingbola and the aforementioned persons who he had accused of taking away his bank as well as nine others will appear before the FRC tomorrow and Thursday.
Speaking to THISDAY yesterday, market watchers questioned Akingbola’s motive for sneaking a petition to President Goodluck Jonathan, obviously to take advantage of the problems the presidency has with Sanusi, and the attempt to dig up the past and reclaim Intercontinental Bank, which is currently non-existent.
Specifically, they wondered how he would persuade the FRC to reverse earlier CBN decisions made against him in the face of a UK court judgment asking him to refund £654 million to Access Bank; his property that have been sold or forfeited; the acquisition of Intercontinental by Access Bank; and the CBN court cases still pending against him over his management of Intercontinental Bank.
Under the circumstances, they posited that it would be an uphill task for Akingbola to convince the FRC otherwise on his complicity in the near-collapse of the defunct Intercontinental bank.
Akingbola had petitioned the presidency, alleging that the suspended CBN governor, former Kwara State Governor, Senator Bukola Saraki, and Mahmoud Lai Alabi had conspired to take over the now defunct Intercontinental Bank from him.
In the seven-page letter dated February 9, 2014, he had appealed to the presidency to intervene on the issue.
However, Sanusi had in response to the allegations levelled against him by FRC, described Akingbola’s petition as a rehash of baseless allegations that the sacked bank MD had been making since 2010, “which apparently he must have been asked to reproduce on February 9, ten days before the suspension”.
“It is indeed strange that the CBN governor can be suspended based on allegations written by a man who ran his bank into the ground and against whom judgment has been obtained in a London court, and who furthermore is facing criminal prosecution at home for offences including criminal theft,” Sanusi had said in his response.
A High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, London had in 2012, ordered Akingbola to pay Access Bank  Â£654 million for sharp and fraudulent practices he had committed when he was in charge of Intercontinental Bank.
The money, which was stolen directly from the bank, was used by Akingbola during his tenure to buy property in the United Kingdom and pay debts owed by his companies, among other uses.
Of the amount, £9 million has since been refunded by Akingbola to Access Bank.
The judgment was delivered in respect of a civil suit filed in December 2009 by the defunct Intercontinental Bank before the court against Akingbola and some of his trust companies.
Upon the acquisition of Intercontinental Bank by Access Bank, Intercontinental Bank was substituted with Access Bank as the plaintiff in the matter.
The judgment delivered by Justice Michael Burton showed that while Akingbola was ordered to pay N145 billion for an unlawful share purchase scheme, he was also asked to pay N16 billion for Tropics Securities Limited payment claims and approximately £10.5 million for Fuglers’ payment claims.
While Tropics Securities Limited was allegedly owned by Akingbola, Fuglers is an English law firm that he used to transact businesses and acquire assets in the United Kingdom.
In the judgment, Justice Burton had ruled comprehensively that Akingbola was liable to refund the money to Access Bank and consequently ruled in the bank’s favour on all of its claims against him.
While arriving at his judgment, the judge had held that during cross-examination, Akingbola told “obvious lies” that he did not know that Intercontinental Bank was buying its own shares.
He held that the former bank boss, in fact, devised and oversaw the implementation of the strategy to buy the bank’s shares and thereby artificially increase its share price.
The judge stated that before Akingbola commenced the strategy to increase the bank’s share price and in order to benefit from it, he had borrowed N9.3 billion and used it to acquire a large quantity of the bank’s shares for himself.
He disclosed that Akingbola’s strategy to buy the shares of the defunct Intercontinental Bank was a “substantial contributing factor to the collapse of the bank”.
The judge held that at a time when the bank was undergoing significant liquidity strain, the former bank boss misappropriated N16 billion of the bank’s money and paid it to his family-owned companies.
The money, according to the judge, was used to repay those companies’ debts to their bankers.
The judge noted that Akingbola paid £8.5 million out of the money he had fraudulently taken out of the defunct bank to his English solicitors to buy luxury property in London.
Access Bank was represented in the suit by the English law firm of Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP and barristers from the English chambers of Fountain Court, which were supported by the Nigerian law firm of Olaniwun Ajayi LP.
The suit was principally aimed at recovering funds belonging to Access Bank, which were misappropriated by Akingbola while he was the managing director of Intercontinental Bank.
The defendants in the suit were Akingbola, Kayman Company Limited, Verndale Properties Limited, Jasmine Properties Limited, Caelum Limited and Sanami Limited.
In 2011, the same judge had ordered Akingbola to pay £130,000 to Intercontinental Bank by way of interim payment.
The court further mandated Akingbola to pay £750,000 by 4 pm on May 3, 2011 and another £5.5 million by 4 pm on October 1, 2011 into the Court Funds Office.
The court-ordered sums, according to Justice Burton, were to remain in the Court Funds Office until a further order was made.
The court also ruled that if Akingbola should default in paying the sums, there would be a final judgment for him to pay Intercontinental Bank a total sum of £68,110, 936 with interest to be assessed.
The orders were sequel to a suit instituted by Intercontinental Bank against Akingbola and some firms.
The court also gave the former bank chief up to 4 pm on May 16, 2011 to give standard disclosure in respect of any document at Tropics (his office).
Akingbola was also facing trial in Nigeria for charges bordering on theft levelled against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The current move by Akingbola is therefore seen by industry watchers as a veiled attempt to get his own pound of flesh from the suspended CBN governor and all those who were associated with the sale of Intercontinental Bank.
 

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