N4.6B Fraud: Heritage Bank Manager Insists Statements Made Under Duress

 

 

By Gbenga Ogunbufunmi

 

A defendant, Mr. Iwejuo Nna Joseph, today, told a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, that all the statements he made while he was detained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged N4.6 billion fraud were made under duress.

Joseph, a branch manager with Heritage Bank Plc, is being tried by the EFCC alongside Dr. Emmanuel Warimapo- Owei Dudafa, a former Senior Special Assistant on Domestic Affairs to former President Goodluck Jonathan, before Justice Mohammed Idris on an amended 23 count charge, bordering on conspiracy and concealment of proceeds of crime.

At the resumed hearing of the matter today, Joseph while being led in-evidence by his lawyer, Mr. Ige Asemudara, told the court that all the statements he wrote while in the agency’s custody were dictated to him by investigator, who promised to release him if he do what they asked him to do.

He said, “All the statements I made while in EFCC’s custody,  were dictated to me. They made me to believe that by writing what they told me would guarantee my liberty to go home. I was in custody for 28 days, and I was denied a lawyer. I was kept incommunicado”.

He also told the court, all the companies named in the charge, namely: Pluto Properties Limited, Seagate Properties Limited Avalon Properties Limited and Rotato Limited, were introduced to him by one Somprie Omebi, and that he personally visited their addresses at Ikota, VGC, Lekki, Lagos, before opening their accounts with his bank at Yenogoa, Bayelsa State.

He however told the court that he was surprised when he was taken to those offices by operatives of EFCC during investigation, only to find out that the addresses of the   companies as contained in the mandate form have changed.

The defendant further told the court that one of the companies Ebiwise Enterprises, which he is being cross- examined on is his family business, which he jointly run with his wife.

The defendant, while being cross-examined by the Dudafa’s lawyer, Mr. Gboyega Oyewole (SAN), however told the court that all the transactions done by one Sonia Warimapo-Owei, never paid any money to him, rather the money were paid in by the owners of the accounts.

Also, when cross-examined by the EFCC’s lawyer, Mr. Rotimj Oyedepo, he told the court that he was forced to forge the signature of one Taiwo Ebenezer.

He also told the court that he signed while his wife’s picture was on the mandate form of Ebiwise enterprises, because it was his family business.

He also told the court that it was because of the threat that his bank’s headquarters will be sealed off and the management charged to court that made the bank to honour the payment of N150 instruction he made to the bank while in EFCC custody.

He admitted refereeing some of the companies listed in the charge, which he said was a normal practice in banking sector.

He also admitted that some monies were paid into his family’s business account.

The monies he said was for the contract done with Bayelsa State government and other organisations.

Meanwhile, further hearing of the matter has been adjourned till Wednesday, for continuation of cross-examination.

At the last hearing of the matter, the defendant in his evidence-in-chief, had told the court that upon his arrival at the office of the EFCC, that he was told that he is not the target of their investigation, but Dudafa and that if he cooperate with them, he will be left off the hook, but that if he refused to implicate the first defendant he would be prosecuted for the sin of another person.

He also told the court that he was not the only one invited by the anti- graft agency on the matter, adding that the bank’s Head of operations, Yenagoa branch, Mr Ademola Folorunso who had earlier testified against the first defendant was invited as well as one Stanley Nwogu, the branch head of Fund Transfer.

He denied having any personal relationship with the companies listed in the charge except official relationship as the Account Officer responsible for those account.

He also told the court that he had no official role in the process of opening the account which were opened at the bank’s headquarters and not in Yenagoa.

Nwejuo further told the court that as branch manager of Yenogoa branch of the bank, that his role in administering the branch is more of ceremonial, adding that the key persons officers are the Operations Manager without which no account can be operated and the Head of the Fund Transfer unit, Stanley Nwogu without which no funds can be transferred from the bank.

 

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