A Federal High Court in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, presided over by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, on Tuesday, January 28, adjourned till April 7, the trial of former chairman, board of directors, Skye Bank Plc; (now Polaris Bank), Tunde Ayeni and the bank’s former managing director, Timothy Oguntayo, for appraisal of the out of court settlement and trial of the matter, respectively.
The defendants are facing a 10-count charge, bordering on money laundering to the tune of N25,415,080,000 and wish to make an out-of-court settlement of the matter that will involve the prosecuting Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
The duo were arraigned on March 7, 2019, alongside two companies, Control Dredging Company Ltd and Royaltex Paramount Ventures Ltd, for allegedly conspiring at different times to fraudulently divert depositors’ funds domiciled in the defunct Skye Bank Plc.
One of the charges reads, “That you, Tunde Ayeni, whilst being the chairman, board of directors of the defunct Skye Bank Plc, between the 1st of January, 2014 and 31st December, 2014 at Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, did commit an offence, to wit: converting the aggregate sum of N17,415,080,000, taken in cash from defunct Skye Bank Plc Suspense Account and delivered to you by the staff of the defunct Skye Bank Plc, which money you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act, to wit: fraud, and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 15(2)(b) and (3) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended).”
They all pleaded “not guilty” to the charges.
At the resumed sitting on Tuesday, counsel to the first, third and fourth defendants, Dele Adesina, SAN, and Ahmed Raji, SAN, and O. Akonni, counsel to the second defendant, appeared on behalf of the defendants and applied for an adjournment to avail their clients the opportunity to conclude the out-of-court-settlement agreement between the defendants, the EFCC and the CBN.
According to Raji, “The settlement has reached a very advanced state. The first defendant has come out with a roll-on plan to inject the sum of $300 million into his business, and as such, the out-of-court-settlement will be sorted out because it is a huge amount of money. The first defendant has put this into consideration and has sent a letter to the chairman of the EFCC on the 23rd of January, 2020, and also served the EFCC counsel, Suraj Saeda, SAN, a copy this morning.
They said, “My lord, we are pleading for a little indulgence, because opening the trial will definitely sent negative vibes to the investors, who may be scared away, making the state and the defendant suffer, because the defendant wouldn’t be able to pay and that will make the state lose the money, that is why we are pleading with my lord to accommodate us for this little indulgence.”
The prosecution counsel, however, told the court that he has information that the court will not give any indulgence on the matter of out-of-court-settlement, and as such had brought two witnesses to the court for the continuation of the trial.