EFCC withdraws Tunde Ayeni’s N25.4bn case

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission withdrew the N25.4 billion bribery case it had filed against the chairman of the defunct Skye Bank (now Polaris), Tunde Ayeni; and Chief Executive Timothy Oguntayo after reaching a secret settlement with the businessmen which could have involved the confiscation of 15 billion naira in cash and assets.

On March 7, 2019, the EFCC, under the leadership of Ibrahim Magu, arraigned Ayeni, Oguntayo and two other companies before Judge Ijeoma Ojukwu of a Federal High Court in Abuja on 10 counts bordering on the money laundering to the tune of N25.4 billion.

One of the charges reads: “That you, Tunde Ayeni, while serving as Chairman of the Board of the defunct Skye Bank Plc, between 1 January 2014 and 31 December 2014 in Abuja, the jurisdiction of this honorable court, caused an offense to be committed, namely: to convert the total sum of N17,415,080,000 taken in cash from the suspense account of the defunct Skye Bank Plc and given to you by the staff of the defunct Skye Bank Plc, which you should reasonably have known was part of the proceeds of an unlawful act, namely: fraud and so committed an offense contrary to and punishable under section 15( 2)(b) and (3) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as amended).”

During the hearing on December 8, 2020, EFCC lawyer Samuel Chime said: “The parties have made considerable progress. The prosecution received property in preparation for the settlement of this case; a property in Lagos which the defendants relinquished. But we had to rely on AMCON and Skye Bank who are the nominal plaintiffs in this case.

“AMCON did not accept the value of N15 billion. They valued the property at N10bn. As a result, the defendants agreed to provide an additional N5 billion.

Certified copies of court records obtained by our reporter showed that the EFCC decided to withdraw the charges it had filed against Ayeni and the bank’s ex-CEO, informing the court that a settlement had been reached. found.

However, the final amount of money Ayeni and his co-defendant allegedly returned was never made public, unlike other cases involving bank executives.

Anti-corruption agency lawyer Abba Mohammed later informed the court that the charges against Ayeni and ex-bank MD had been withdrawn and requested the court to strike them out in accordance with Article 108(2a) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.

Two companies – Control Dredging Company Ltd and Royaltex Paramount Ventures Ltd – which were the co-defendants of Ayeni and Oguntayo, were later re-indicted and forced to plead guilty to the crimes Ayeni had been charged with. to have committed.

The prosecution said: “The business of the day is the arraignment and we are ready. Before proceeding, the plaintiff will want to take advantage of section 108(2a) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act to withdraw the charge against the 1st (Ayeni) and 2nd (Oguntayo) accused and prosecute only against the 3rd (Control Dredging Company) and 4th (Royaltex Paramount Ventures).

Reacting to the development, activist lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, said that while plea bargaining has its benefits as it saves costs, it should not be abusive.

Effiong wondered why the EFCC allowed Ayeni to escape sentencing and return only part of the money when internet fraudsters were usually forced to plead guilty and confiscate all their assets at the Commission.

“There needs to be deterrence as part of the plea bargain so that others are not encouraged to steal and then return a fraction of the money and escape conviction. There should be a guilty plea on file. Without this, it cannot be said that the person has committed an offence. If they say he should be released, why can’t we get a 100% refund of the amount allegedly stolen? He asked.

Also in conversation with Sunday PUNCH, Auwal Rafsanjani, Executive Director of the Center for Civil Society Legislative Advocacy, CISLAC/Transparency International, said the plea bargaining system in Nigeria fosters corruption.

Contacted for comment, EFCC spokesman Wilson Uwujaren said he was unaware of the development.

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