The Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday heard that the Oyo State Government sent a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) after it uncovered an alleged fraud in the sale of the state’s shares in seven banks by the Rashidi Ladoja administration.
Testifying in Ladoja’s trial for alleged money laundering, the Executive Secretary, Oyo State Bureau of Investment and Public, Private Partnership, Mr Yinka Fatoki, said state officials allegedly got “gifts” running into millions of naira from the portfolio manager.
The witness recalled that in 2007, while he was an Acting Director of Investment Promotion in the Ministry of Commerce, and while serving as the Desk Officer for Oyo’s holdings in public quoted equities, the state executive council reached a decision to sell off the state’s shares.
“In 2007, there was a decision by the state to sell some of the shareholdings in about seven banks, including First City Monument Bank, UBA, Skye Bank, Stanbic IBTC, Standard Chattered Bank and Guarantee Trust Bank. Fountain Securities Ltd was appointed the Portfolio Manager,” he said.
He said the Ministry of Commerce was mandated to generate the letters of instruction to liquidate the shares, which was carried out.
He said after the sale of the shares, Fountain Securities remitted the funds in three installments to the state.
Fatoki said the shares were sold at a discount, with the proceeds amounting to N4.3billion, adding that not all the shares were sold.
The witness said the Christopher Alao-Akala administration ordered an investigation on the transaction, and a stockbroker, GTI Securities, was appointed to review Fountain Securities’ report on the transactions.
Fatoki said N180million, which was part of the proceeds of the shares sales, was not remitted to the state.
“GTI submitted its report to the state government. The report was reviewed and the state decided to cause a petition to be forwarded to the EFCC. I was named in the petition as one of the suspects,” the witness said.
Under cross examination by Ladoja’s lawyer Mr Bolaji Onilenla, the witness said he was not part of those who authorised the sale of the shares.
He said Fountain Securities had been the state’s portfolio manager since 2001.
“They were initially contracted by the Lam Adesina administration for a three-year period, which was rolled over by the Ladoja administration,” he said.
He said Fountain Securities gave cash gifts to government officials. On one occasion, he said the portfolio manager brought four cheques of N5million each.
“The commissioner reached out to the political functionaries while I dealt with civil servants. The gifts were unrelated to the sale of Oyo State’s shares,” he said.
EFCC re-arraigned Ladoja for allegedly converting N4.7billion from the state treasury to his personal use, eight years after he was first arraigned.
Ladoja was charged along with his former Commissioner for Finance Waheed Akanbi on eight counts of money laundering and unlawful conversion of public funds.
EFCC accused them of converting N1,932,940,032.48 belonging to Oyo to their personal use through the Guaranty Trust Bank account of a company, Heritage Apartments Limited, despite knowing that it was proceed of crime.
The prosecution said Ladoja removed £600,000 from the state coffers in 2007 and sent it to Bimpe Ladoja in London.
Ladoja also allegedly bought an armoured Land Cruiser jeep with N42million for himself using public funds.
EFCC said he converted N728,600,000 and another N77,850,000 at different times in 2007, and allegedly transferred N77, 850,000 to Bistrum Investments, which he nominated to help him purchase a property named Quarter 361 in Ibadan, Oyo State capital.
The alleged offence, EFCC said, contravenes sections 17(a) and18 (1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004, punishable under sections 14(1), 16(a) (b) and 18(2).
Credit: The Nation