The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has apprehended a banker working for Sterling Bank Plc in connection with a N1.8 billion alleged fraud.
Ifeanyichukwu Shallom Isituah, a bank officer, and Ighodaro Austin Osaretin, a businessman, are accused of stealing N1,790,558,000 from a bank client, Wells Procurement Limited, with account number 0016798848.
The matter has since been dragged to court after thorough investigation by the anti graft agency.
An EFCC Investigator, Adamu Mohammed, told Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja, that the agency received a petition with reference No: SB/IAG/12/EFCC/011 duly signed by the Head IT and Head Intelligence and Investigation on behalf of Sterling Bank.
While testifying under oath, Mohammed, who works with the EFCC’s Team C Cybercrime section, said the petitioner claimed that a customer’s bank account was profiled using online banking and the funds were transferred to numerous persons and organizations.
The witness N. M. Anana stated that the bank’s preliminary inquiry indicated that the second defendant’s profile, Isituah, a female, was used to establish the account on internet banking, and that more than 24 accounts received the same amount of money, as lead in evidence by the prosecution.
“Investigation letters were sent to FCMB, Zenith, First Bank, Fidelity Bank and Access Bank. Responses were received from the banks and the statement of accounts were analysed and the analysis revealed that most of the company’s accounts the money was transferred to were BDC (Bureau de Change) operators.
“Some of them reside in Abuja, Kaduna and there was one address that we suspected to live in Lagos, Ndifreke Roberts. But all efforts to trace the address of Kaduna, Lagos and Abuja suspects did not yield any information to help the commission get them.
“On March 10, 2020, the DSS handed over the two defendants to the commission under the instruction of the AGF (attorney-general of the Federation) for further investigation. The two defendants’ statements were voluntarily taken under caution.
“The first defendant revealed that he has a company called Universal Agriculture Empowerment Initiative as an NGO which received the sum of sixty million naira as part of the transfer from that Sterling Bank customer’s account. He further stated that the money was received from one Osaretin (second defendant) and transferred to his account as a donation.
“That he introduced one of his friends who is the owner of Villavon International School who also received one hundred million naira from the said fraud.
“He further stated that he called a BDC in the name of Damo who owns Damoo Ten Ventures. Damo was invited to the commission and he volunteered a statement that the first defendant contacted him and he transferred sixty million naira to various accounts and further instructed the owner of the International School to transfer ninety-five million naira.
“The dollar equivalent was received in cash by the first defendant. The first defendant further stated that the money was used at IDP camps around the country. I cannot remember the specific location but he mentioned a place in Borno and Adamawa, the witness said.
However, during cross examination by the defence lawyer, A. Okenile, the EFCC operative said that Sterling Bank gave the commission the information that the second defendant profiled the account for the alleged fraud.
When asked what links the second defendant to the alleged fraud, Mohammed said, “the offence was committed at Sterling Bank and it was reported. The offence took place during a public holiday and the bank realized it on December 28. The accounts of the customer we are talking about has never been profiled for internet banking. So we had to understand how it was transferred, which was through internet banking.
The bank claimed that the account did not have online banking access and that it was done by a member of staff, who used the second defendant’s profile to link the account to the internet banking system. Money cannot be transferred from that account without that profile.
She evaded the bank’s attempts to reach her. She had vanished without a trace. Not until she was tracked down, arrested, and handed over to the commission by the Department of State Services (DSS).
The case was further postponed to October 19 to allow for the continuation of the trial.
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