Law News
EFCC loses N860m theft case against stockbrokerage firm

A Lagos State High Court in Ikaja has discharged and acquitted one Mr. Ebi Odeigah, who was accused of stealing N860m belonging to the Union Bank of Nigeria Plc.

Freed alongside Odeigah after six years of trial by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission are his stockbrokerage firm, GMT Securities and Asset Management Limited, and his brother-in-law, Alexander Nkenchor, who was a branch manager with Union Bank.

The EFCC, in charge number ID/136/2009, arraigned the three defendants in December 2009 on 13 counts bordering on conspiracy, stealing and issuance of dud cheques.

The anti-graft commission alleged that Nkenchor, who was at the time the manager of the Golden Plaza branch of Union Bank at Falomo, Lagos, aided his brother-in-law, Odeigah, a stockbroker, to siphon funds belonging to Union Bank by making “unauthorised payment” in favour of Odeigah’s firm, GMT Securities and Asset Management Limited.

Odeigah was also accused of issuing several dud cheques which were dishonoured.

However, in their defence before Justice Lateefa Okunnu, the defendants submitted that the N860m which they were accused of stealing was paid by Union Bank to Zenith Bank to offset an overdraft facility of N1bn which Zenith Bank had advanced to GMT Securities.

The judge, in her review of the case and judgment delivered on June 26, 2015, noted that the transaction came after Union Bank had “pressurised” and persuaded Odeigah to move the trading account of GMT Securities from Zenith Bank to Union Bank.

Okunnu noted that the alleged theft of N860m was occasioned because Union Bank disbursed the money before all formalities for the transfer of GTM Securities trading account from Zenith Bank to Union Bank by Central Securities Clearing System (CSCS) of the Nigerian Capital Market was completed, and also before paperwork evidencing the loan agreement had been done.

Okunnu held that the aggregate of all the evidences before her absolved the defendants of all the charges levelled against them by the EFCC.

The judge held, “One more thing, and I am done. This is that apart from the fact that their respective testimonies were cogent, credible and practically unchallenged, I found, whilst watching and listening to the 1st and 2nd defendants in the witness box, that they came across as being very open and frank, and also very eager to narrate their side of the story. They also seemed to me to be sincere. Indeed, the 1st defendant, rather than appearing to be the criminal, cut the picture of the one who had actually been wronged in the scheme of things. And what is more, the respective testimonies of the 1st and 2nd defendants were corroborated by the evidence of other witnesses, most especially DW2 and by the documents they produced before the court. It is the combination of all of these that has persuaded me as to the truth of their own version of events.”

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