Former Head of Service, Mr. Stephen Oronsaye has been exposed in court after a witness working with a bank gave detailed account how Oronsaye secretly spent N190m belonging to the Federal Government.
Olubunmi Ojoko, an employee of Access Bank Plc, on Wednesday, gave details of how a former Head of Service, Mr. Stephen Oronsaye, spent N190m belonging to the Federal Government which he allegedly kept in a secret account in his capacity as the then Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Financial Action Task Force.
Giving details about how Oronsaye perpetrated the crime, Ojoko who was testifying as the second prosecution witness in Oronsaye’s ongoing trial before Justice Olasunbo Goodluck of a Federal Capital Territory High Court in Maitama, Abuja said she was the Access Bank’s officer in charge of the account, which the former Head of Service was said to have unilaterally opened in the name of the Presidential Committee on FATF without the approval of the Accountant-General of the Federation.
The account was also said to be unknown to other members of the committee.
The defendant, while still serving as the Head of Service of the Federation, was appointed as chairman of the PCFATF, which was set up to ensure the passage of the anti-money laundering bill and countering financial terrorism, among other terms of reference.
According to Punch, Ojoko opened her testimony shortly after the first prosecution witness, Ngunnan Kakwagh, an EFCC investigator, was cross-examined by the defence team led by Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN) on Wednesday.
Kakwagh in her earlier testimony on March 15, had alleged that the ex-Head of Service unilaterally operated the Access Bank account in the name of the PCFATF and received a total of N240m from the CBN through the account.
She had said Oronsaye also made “five structured payments” of N9m each, making a total of N45m, into the account in one day in September 2013. She said out of the total N285m, Oronsaye invested N190m in fixed deposit and converted it along with the accrued interest into personal use.
Ojoko, led in evidence by the EFCC’s lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Ufom Uket, on Wednesday, narrated how Oronsaye opened the Access Bank account on behalf of the PCFATF in 2012, without obtaining an approval from the Accountant-General of the Federation.
She said, “He (Oronsaye) called me that he needed to open an account on behalf of the Presidential Committee on Financial Action Task Force.
“I met him at his residence in Asokoro, where I handed him the documents for the account, including the Access Bank account opening request of the committee signed by him, his passport photograph, copy of his passport and documents that set up the committee by the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
“I scrutinised the documents and discovered that the Accountant-General of the Federation’s approval was not included. So I asked him for it and he said it was not necessary. I asked for the Accountant-General of the Federation’s approval because it is needed when opening a government account. Since he said that it wasn’t necessary, I took him by his word.
“I took the documents to the bank and the account was opened.”
She confirmed that she never met any other member of the committee, including Mr. Jalal Arabi, a counsel in the presidential Villa, who served as the secretary to the committee, throughout the period the account was operated.
She said there were a total of four lodgments into the account from the CBN and other cash deposits. The lodgments totalled N285m, part of which were invested in fixed deposits with part of the interests that accrued re-invested.
She said as of the time the account was closed, Oronsaye had withdrawn from the account about N150m which was partly the accrued interests on the investments, through cheques which he allegedly issued in favour of himself and various beneficiaries.
She said besides “the direct withdrawals” by Oronsaye, “there were other various beneficiaries”.
Ojoko said, “The first transfer was N50m in October 2012. The second was in April 2012 was N90m from the CBN. In May 2013, there was cash lodgment of N45m . The fourth lodgment of N100m came in December 2014 from CBN.
“After the first lodgment (of N50m from CBN) several cheques were drawn by the defendant (Oronsaye). In favour various beneficiaries.
“The second inflow of N90m was invested in fixed deposit account. It was fixed in Banker’s Acceptance which is a form of investment, for 90 days at 9 per cent. On maturity, the N45m (the third inflow) had come and it was fixed for 90 days.
“Upon maturity, they (the investments) were usually rolled over on the instruction of Mr. Stephen Oronsaye and the interest were credited into his current account.
“The N100m (the fourth inflow) came in December 2014 and it was placed in fixed in Banker’s Acceptance for 90 days.
“The total ofinvestments and roll overs were about 28.
“About N150m interests accrued on all the investments.
“Now the account is at zero balance after the N163.5m in it was transferred to the Treasury Single Account.”
The witness was led to read from the statement of the account which was tendered and admitted by the court without any objection from the defence.
Giving the breakdown of the cash withdrawals from the account, she said, ” On September 20, 2013 -there was a cheque withdrawal of N900,000 in favour of Mr. Stephen Oronsaye.
“On October 31, 2013, there was a cheque withdrawal of N500,000 in favour of Mr. Stephen Oronsaye.
“On December 12, 2013, there was a cash withdrawal of N3m in favour of Mr. Stepehen Oronsaye.
“On December 23, 2013, there was another withdrawal of N3m in favour of Mr. Stephen Oronsaye.
“On January 29, 2014, there was another withdrawal of N3m in favour of Mr. Stephen Oronsaye.
“On February 3, 2014, there was a withdrawal of N3m by Mr. Stephen Oronsaye.
“On February 17, 2014, there wa a withdrawal of N600,000 by Mr. Stephen Oronsaye.
“On April 8, 2014, Mr. Stephen Oronsaye, withdrew N3m with cheque.
“On July 3, 2014, there was withdrawal of N3m by Mr. Stephen Oronsaye.
“On July 10, 2014, there was withdrawal of N3m by Mr. Stephen Oronsaye.
“On October 30, 2014, N900,000 was withdrawn by Mr. Stephen Oronsaye.
“On December, 17, 2014, there was N3m withdrawal by Mr. Stephen Oronsaye.
“On December 22, 2014, the sum of N950,000 was withdrawn by Mr. Stephen Oronsaye.
“On Decenber 24, 2014, there was withdrawal of N980,000 by Mr. Stephen Oronsaye.
“On January 6, 2015, there was N2m withdrawal by Mr. Stephen Oronsaye.
“On March 16, 2015, the sum of N650,000 was withdrawn by Mr. Stephen Oronsaye.
“On March 20, 2015, there was N3m withdrawal by Mr. Stephen Oronsaye.”
The account opening package, bank statements, mandate documents raised by Oronsaye and other documents relating to the account were admitted as exhibits.
The judge adjourned till Thursday for cross-examination of the witness.
It would be recalled that the Economic and Financial Crimes had on March 15, 2016 arraigned Oronsaye on two counts of breach of trust which he allegedly committed between 2013 and 2014 by defrauding the Federal Government of N190m using his position as the then Chairman of the Presidential Committee on FATF.
Oronsaye was accused of converting the N190m to his personal use through the investment of the fund in Access Bank Plc’s Banker’s Acceptance for a tenor of 90 days at 9 and 12 per cents interest rates “in violation of the extant financial regulations”.