A High Court of Justice, Queens Bench Division, London Tuesday ordered the former Managing Director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc (now Access Bank Plc), Mr. Erastus Akingbola, to pay Access Bank Plc £654 million (about N164 billion) for some sharp and fraudulent practices committed when he was in charge of the bank.
The money, which learnt from a reliable industry source, was purportedly stolen directly from the bank 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 already been refunded by Akingbola to Access Bank, he said.
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 Tuesday by Justice Michael Burton showed that while Akingbola has been ordered to pay N145 billion for an unlawful share purchase scheme, he will also pay N16 billion for Tropics Securities Limited payments claims and approximately £10.5 million for Fuglers payments claims.
While Tropics Securities Limited is owned by the rogue banker, who is also on trial in Nigeria for money laundering and fraud, as well as his wife, Anthonia, and children, Fuglers is an English law firm that he used to transact businesses and acquire investments in the United Kingdom. In the judgment, Justice Burton ruled comprehensively that Akingbola was liable to refund the money to Access Bank and consequently ruled in the banks favour on all of its claims against him.
While arriving at his judgment, the judge 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 banks shares and thereby artificially increase its share price. The judge stated that before Akingbola commenced the strategy to increase the banks share price and in order to benefit from it, he borrowed N9.3 billion and used it to acquire a large quantity of the banks shares for himself.
He disclosed that Akingbolas 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 banks 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 Plc 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 was 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. Last year, 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, are to remain in the Court Funds Office until a further order is 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 is also facing trial in Nigeria for charges bordering on theft as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is prosecuting him and his wife for allegedly stealing depositors’ money totalling N47 billion.
Commenting on the judgment from a British court, an Access Bank official said the ruling was long overdue and hoped that the Lagos High Court would do the needful and arrive at a similar verdict for theft against Akingbola.
He said the particulars and evidence used by the British court are the same as those at the Lagos High Court, so it will be shocking if a local court passes a different ruling.