A Federal High Court in Lagos Tuesday ordered a former Managing Director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc, Mr. Erastus Akingbola, to pay Access Bank Plc. N212.294 billion.
The order by Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke was sequel to the registration of the judgment of the High Court of Justice, Queens Bench Division, Commercial Court London delivered by Mr. Justice Michael Burton on July 31, 2012.
Justice Aneke also ordered Akingbola to pay an interest of eight per cent per annum calculated from July 31, 2012 when the judgment of the English court was delivered until the final liquidation of the judgment sum.
The order of registration made by Justice Aneke came soon after the Lagos State High Court on February 18 ruled that the state High Court lacked the jurisdiction to register the judgment of Justice Burton, hence Access Bank filed an application at the Federal High Court.
THISDAY investigation revealed that by the order of Justice Aneke, Akingbola has the right to apply to set aside the registration order within 14 days from the service of the order on him.
Justice Burton had in 2012 ordered Akingbola to pay Access Bank £654 million for some sharp and fraudulent practices committed when he was in charge of the defunct bank, which Access Bank later acquired.
The money, according to industry sources, was allegedly stolen directly from the bank and used by Akingbola during his tenure to buy property in the United Kingdom and pay the debts his companies owed, among others.
Of the amount, £9 million had been refunded by Akingbola to Access Bank, the sources said.
The judgment was delivered in respect of a civil suit filed in December 2009 by the defunct Intercontinental Bank before the court against Akingbola and some of his trust companies.
Upon the acquisition of Intercontinental Bank by Access Bank, the defunct bank was substituted with Access Bank as the plaintiff in the matter.
The judgment delivered by Justice Burton showed that while Akingbola had been ordered to pay N145 billion for an unlawful share purchase scheme, he would also refund N16 billion for Tropics Securities Limited payment claims and approximately £10.5 million for Fuglers payment claims.
While Tropics Securities Limited is owned by the former bank boss, who is also on trial in Nigeria for money laundering and fraud, as well as his wife, Anthonia, and children, Fuglers is an English law firm that he used to transact businesses and acquire investments in the United Kingdom.
In the judgment, Justice Burton ruled comprehensively that Akingbola was liable to refund the money to Access Bank and consequently ruled in the bank’s favour on all of its claims against him.
While arriving at his judgment, the judge held that during cross-examination, Akingbola told “obvious lies” that he did not know that Intercontinental Bank was buying its own shares.
He held that the former bank boss in fact devised and oversaw the implementation of the strategy to buy the bank’s shares and thereby artificially increased its share price.
The judge stated that before Akingbola commenced the strategy to increase the bank’s share price and in order to benefit from it, he borrowed N9.3 billion and used it to acquire a large quantity of the bank’s shares for himself.
He added that Akingbola’s strategy to buy the shares of the defunct Intercontinental Bank was a “substantial contributing factor to the collapse of the bank.”
The judge held that at a time when the bank was undergoing significant liquidity strain, the former bank boss misappropriated N16 billion of the bank’s money and paid it into his family-owned companies.
The money, according to the judge, was used to repay those companies’ debts to their bankers.
The judge noted that Akingbola paid £8.5 million out of the money he had fraudulently taken out of the defunct bank to his English solicitors to buy luxury property in London.
Access Bank Plc was represented in the suit by the English law firm of Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP and barristers from the English chambers of Fountain Court which were supported by the Nigerian law firm of Olaniwun Ajayi LP.