An Executive Director of First Bank Plc, Dauda Lawal, has accused Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of falsifying the circumstances under which he surrendered N9.08 billion to the commission.
EFCC had urged the Federal High Court in Lagos to order the forfeiture of the money allegedly laundered for former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
But Lawal, in a counter-affidavit filed in opposition to EFCC’s prayers, said there was a desperate bid by the commission to obtain an order of forfeiture from the court.
He denied ever being in possession of property suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activity held or laundered on behalf of Mrs. Alison-Madueke.
Lawal said following his arrest on May 9, 2016, he cooperated with EFCC and made a full admission to having received $25 million.
“Having provided evidence to the EFCC of how the $25 million so obtained had been disbursed, I was still made to agree to surrender to the EFCC an additional sum of N9.08 billion being the naira equivalent of $40 million at the rate of N227 to $1,” he said.
He said based on the agreement, he surrendered N5 billion to regain his freedom last May 13, but that the EFCC reneged on the agreement to release him despite surrendering 56 per cent of the amount.
Lawal said he made statements to EFCC about the circumstances following the release.
“Had the EFCC disclosed my witness statements to His Lordship Justice Muslim Hassan, he would not have granted them the interim order for forfeiture on January 6, 2017,” he said.
On how he received the $25 million, Lawal said he received a call from a friend, Stanley Lawson, March 2015 to help collect the money, which he subsequently paid into an account provided for him.
“I had no idea of the origin of the said funds and only acted in the course of normal banking business,” he said.
The banker said EFCC allegedly compelled him to provide funds he never received.
Lawal said in the affidavit: “Having been invited and subsequently detained in Lagos for 11 consecutive days and without access to members of my immediate family, the EFCC investigators kept suggesting and insisting that there was a shortfall of $40 million, which I was yet to account for.
“They were alleging that I had in fact taken $65 million as opposed to the $25 million, which I stated that I had received.
“The EFCC investigators interviewing me made it clear that the only way that I could/would leave detention is if I made their suggested shortfall available to them.
“I had now been in detention for several days, not seen my family and felt that the only way of being allowed to leave EFCC detention was by giving into their demands.
“My legal representatives and I became extremely fearful that if I did not take this course of action, I was going to be detained by the EFCC for at least a further 19 days, with the real prospect that this could be extended.
“At this stage, I was extremely desperate and would have agreed to almost anything to ensure my release from detention.
“Because I never had this EFCC invented $40 million to hand, I had to use my personal connections to source for and raise about 50 per cent of the said amount while I was in detention.
“I managed to borrow some of the money from the bank where I am an Executive Director and surrendered it to the EFCC through my legal counsel and was eventually released from detention on May 20, 2016.
“Consequently, in a three week period between May 13 and June 6, 2016, I was made to surrender to the EFCC Recovery Account at the Central Bank of Nigeria the total sum of N9.08 billion.”
He is praying the court to set aside the temporary order of forfeiture on the basis of alleged suppression of material fact by EFCC.
“I believe that it is in the interest of justice for this court to deny the applicant’s application for a final order of forfeiture in this case so as to ensure that justice is served,” Lawal said.
The bank chief made a counter-claim for an order directing EFCC to return the N9.08 billion to him.
But, EFCC, in its reply to the counter-affidavit, said the N9.08 billion, “being proceeds of the unlawful activities retained by the second respondent (Lawal) was recovered from him voluntarily by the applicant (EFCC)”.
“The second respondent confessed to have retained the said sum and voluntarily pledged before his lawyer to return same to the Federal Government,” the commission said.
Insisting that the money formed part of unlawful activities, EFCC asked the court to make a permanent forfeiture order of the money.
“While the second respondent was in our custody, he had unfettered access to his lawyers, immediate family and friends.
“It is in the interest of justice to grant this application forfeiting the total sum of N9,080,000,000 being properties suspected to be proceeds of unlawful act found in possession of the second respondent,” EFCC said.
Justice Hassan adjourned until February 16 for ruling.