The Federal High Court sitting in Ibadan yesterday ordered the remand of another set of eight bank officials for alleged N8 billion currency scam.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned three Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) officials and five employees of First Bank Plc over the alleged scam.
The accused, the court heard, acquired assets in Nigeria and Pretoria, South Africa.
The CBN employees are Kolawole Babalola, Olaniran Adeola and Togun Kayode Phillips. Their alleged accomplices are Isiaq Akao, Ayodele Festus Adeyemi, Oyebamiji Hakeem, Ayodeji Alase and Ajiwe Adegoke
The commission arraigned the bank officials on a 28-count charge bordering on forgery, misrepresentation and self-enrichment before Justice Adeyinka Faji.
The EFCC in the charge said that the CBN staff conspired with the First Bank employees to recycle N10 billion mutilated currency notes meant to be destroyed.
The accused, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge.
The six accused persons are facing a 15-count charge ranging from conspiracy, abuse of office and stealing to false declaration of actual amount.
The others are concealing of property, fraudulently acquiring assets in excess of their legitimate and provable income and causing economic adversity to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The court was told how the suspects acquired assets worth several billions of naira through fraudulent means, in excess of their legitimate income.
The assets said to have been acquired by the accused bank workers both within Nigeria and Pretoria, South Africa, were allegedly gotten by stealing N1.25billion supposed mutilated currencies meant to be destroyed and taken out of circulation.
The accused persons, according to the prosecution counsel, Mr Rotimi Jacobs, instead of carrying out the statutory instruction to destroy the defaced currency notes as their duty demands, substituted the currency with newspapers neatly cut to naira sizes and proceeded to recycle the mutilated and defaced currency.
The offence, as contained in a charge sheet read out to the accused persons is punishable under section 7(2) of the Bank Employees etc.(Declaration of Assets) Act,CAP. B1, Laws of the Federal Republic, Nigeria 2004.
There was however a mild drama during the court sitting when one of the eight accused persons, Ayodeji Aleshe, a cashier in one the commercial banks, claimed he is an illiterate who could not understand the English language.
Justice Faaj who described the suspect’s claim as false, said he had earlier communicated with him in English and that he was very fluent in the use of the language.
For about 15 minutes, the accused remained adamant, making the court to believe he is an illiterate.
There was confusion until the judge ordered that an interpreter should be sought to read the charge to in Yoruba language.
The Judge ordered their remand at the Agodi Prison in Ibadan and adjourned the matter till June 8 to hear the bail applications.
Chief Olayinka Bolanle, the defence counsel to the first accused person, Babalola, made an oral bail application on behalf of his client.
The judge opposed the oral application and said he preferred a written application for bail.
He said in view of the gravity of the offence, oral bail application would not be accepted.
He ruled that in view of the volume of evidence before him, it would be impossible for him to entertain oral bail applications from six different defence counsel.
The judge ordered the defence counsel to file their bail applications before the close of court business for the day and serve the prosecutor who in turn should respond by June 5.
The anti-graft agency had on Tuesday also arraigned six CBN officials and three employees of two commercial banks on similar charges before Justice Ayo Emmanuel of the Federal High Court, Ibadan.
The two commercial banks are Sterling Bank and Eco Bank.