The Lagos Zonal Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Monday, December 5, 2022, arraigned a former employee of Union Bank PLC , Abdulmalik Salau, alongside Ismaila Yousuf Atumeyi and Ngene Joshua Dominic before Justice Tjinani G. Ringim of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos on an 18-count charge bordering on an alleged cybercrime and money laundering to the tune of N1, 403, 343, 400.00(One Billion, Four Hundred and Three Million, Three Hundred and Forty-three Thousand, Four Hundred Naira).
One of the counts reads: “That you, Abdulmalik Salau, between August and October, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, without lawful authority, directly caused modification of data held in the network of Union Bank Plc leading to the fraudulent transfer of the total sum of N1, 403, 343, 400.00( One Billion, Four Hundred and Three Million, Three Hundred and Forty-three Thousand, Four Hundred Naira) to the account of FAV Oil and Gas Limited and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 16(1) of Cybercrimes( Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) Act, 2015.”
Another count reads: “That you, Ismaila Yousuf Atumeyi, Ngene Joshua Dominic and Abdulmalik Salau, between August and October, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, conspired among yourselves to directly conceal the sum of N1, 403, 343, 400.00( One Billion, Four Hundred and Three Million, Three Hundred and Forty-three Thousand, Four Hundred Naira, ) in the account of FAV Oil and Gas Limited, which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of your unlawful activity and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18( a) , 15 (2) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011, as amended and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.”
The defendants all pleaded “not guilty” to the charges preferred against them.
In view of their pleas, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, submitted that “By virtue of the Section 273 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, the defendants, having pleaded “not guilty” to all the allegations contained in the charge, are deemed to have put themselves up for trial.
“Therefore, we will, with all humility, ask your Lordship for the acceleration of this trial.
“My Lord, the Section 300 of the ACJA also expects the prosecution to give a very brief summary of the case it has against the defendants.
“We have listed six witnesses through whom the prosecution will explain to the court how the defendants agreed among themselves to hack into the database of Union Bank Plc, transferred funds belonging to the Bank and its customers and used the proceeds of this unlawful activity to acquire properties for themselves.
“My Lord, the prosecution will also show to the court how the third defendant, being a former staff of Union Bank Plc, and working with the others, succeeded in hacking into the database of the Bank.
“The defendants, in different installments, moved the sum of over N1.4bn into the accounts of FAV Oil and Gas Limited and Atus Homes Limited.
“The exhibits that the prosecution will tender include the documentary exhibit that shows that the sum of $480,000 was found in the possession of the third defendant, and that the sum of N326, 400 million cash was found in a black Escalade car in the possession of first and second defendants.“My lord, the case is such that, in its nature, requires the cooperation of both the prosecution and the defence team to see its expeditious determination.“I, therefore, urge your lordship, pending the determination of the case, to remand the defendants in a correctional facility, where adequately trained personnel will see to their welfare and wellbeing.”
In response, Bolaji Ayorinde, SAN, counsel to the first and second defendants, Ismaila Yousuf Atumeyi and Ngene Joshua Dominic, respectively, argued that “No iota of evidence has been admitted against the first and second defendants.
“Having pleaded “not guilty” to the charges, they are constitutionally and legally under the presumption of innocence until otherwise determined by the court.
“In order to further the presumption of innocence of the first and second defendants, we filed on November 30, 2022 an application for bail seeking your lordship’s admission to bail of the first and second defendants pending the hearing and determination of the charge against them.
“The prosecution has responded to the application by serving on the first and second defendants a counter filed on December 5, 2022.
“In order to cooperate with an expeditious and speedy dispensation of the case, we are prepared to move the application for bail.
“The application for bail for the first and second defendant is ready for hearing. The summons for bail is dated November 30, 2022. Since it seeks admission of the defendants to bail in very liberal terms, the grounds of the application are well stated in the summons.”
Ayorinde, who described the offence is bailable, stated that the defendants, “who were arrested and detained as far back as November 1, 2022,” would not jump bail.
He added that “they do not have the capacity to interfere with the evidence.”
While adopting the submissions contained in the written address, he prayed the court to grant the application for bail for the first and second defendants.
In response, the prosecution counsel, Oyedepo, however, told the court that Ayorinde had not replied to the counter-affidavit to the bail application.
Justice Ringim, in his ruling, ordered Ayorinde not make further submission on the bail application, as he had not replied to the counter-affidavit to the bail filed by the prosecution.
In his further reaction, Ayorinde stated that the “incarceration of the first and second defendants ought not to continue, even if on some terms. Their rights to bail have not been taken away; the charges preferred against them are bailable.”
In his submission, counsel to the third defendant, Babatunde Ogunwo, “adopted “wholeheartedly” the argument of Ayorinde.
According to him, “This is so because the allegations for which the prosecution has presented against the third defendant revolves around that which the first and second defendants have also been arraigned before the court.”
The prosecution counsel, in response, told the court that “My Lord, he hasn’t filed any application. And if he has, he hasn’t served us.”
Ogunwo, who expressed shock, told the court that the bail application dated Friday, December 2, 2022 was filed the same day.
Justice Ringim ordered Ogunwo not to move the application, maintaining that “it is not in the court’s file; it is not before me.”
While further objecting to the bail application for the first and second defendants, Oyedepo told the court that the 20-paragraph counter-affidavit was deposed to by Michael John, an officer of the EFCC today, December 5, 2022.
“We rely on the submissions in the 20-paragraph counter-affidavit and urge your lordship to refuse the bail application for the first and second defendants.
“We also adopt the submission therein.
“My Lord, failure, on the part of the counsel to the first and second defendants to reply to the counter-affidavit, is deemed as admission of the facts contained therein.
“In the very unlikely event that the court disagrees with our submissions, we pray your lordship to impose such conditions that will secure the attendance of the defendants, particularly the first and second defendants whose applications are being argued.”
Justice Ringim adjourned to Tuesday, December 6, 2022 for ruling on the bail application of the first and second defendants.