By Lukman Olabiyi
Justice Tijjani Ringim of the Federal High Court, Lagos, yesterday, denied bail to three men accused of hacking the computer network of Union Bank and stealing N1,403,343,400 billion.
The trio include a Kogi State House of Assembly candidate, Ismaila Yousuf Atumeyi, a former employee of Union Bank, Abdulmalik Salau, and one Ngene Joshua.
The trio were, on Monday, arraigned by the Lagos Zonal Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on an 18-count charge before Justice Ringim. They pleaded not guilty and applied for bail through their counsel, Mr. Bolaji Ayorinde, SAN. But EFCC counsel, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, opposed the application and prayed for an accelerated hearing of the matter.
Ruling on the application and counter-application yesterday, Justice Tijjani Ringim upheld Oyedepo’s arguments that the defendants were a flight risk and the probability of them jumping bail high. The court noted that the magnitude of the offence was such that the defendants could interfere with the law enforcement procedure and run away.
“In all, I hold that the application for bail filed and argued by Chief Bolaji Ayorinde, SAN, lacks merit and it is accordingly dismissed,” Justice Ringim held.
He remanded the defendants in the Ikoyi correctional facility and adjourned till January 24, 2023 for trial. First defendant Atumeyi is the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) candidate for the Ankpa 11 Constituency for next year’s House of Assembly election in Kogi.
The EFCC preferred an 18-count charge bordering on concealment of proceeds of fraud, money laundering and cybercrime against the defendants before Justice Tijjani Ringim. The defendants were alleged to have hacked into the system of the commercial bank and defrauded the institution of over N1.4 billion.
The court heard that they carried out a “modification of data held in the network of the bank, leading to the fraudulent transfer of the total sum of N1,403,343,400 to the account of FAV Oil and Gas Limited.”
The agency allegedly recovered N326 million and $140,500 from the black Escalade Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) of one of the defendants during an operation at his hideout in Queens Estate, Gwarinpa.
Oyedepo told the court in a charge numbered FHC/L/651C/2022, that the defendants committed the alleged offences between August and October 2022 in Lagos. He said they conspired to “directly conceal” the N1.4 billion in the account of Fav Oil and Gas Limited, “which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of your unlawful activity and you, thereby, committed an offence contrary to sections 18 (a), 15 (2) (a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under section 15 (3) of the same Act.
The defendants were accused of laundering the sum in tranches of N100 million, $480,000, N12.5 million, N7 million, N9 million, N7 million, N12 million, N8 million, $140,000 and N326,400,000.
Specifically, they were alleged to have acquired a N12.5 million black Mercedes Benz C300; N7 million BMW 3 Series; N9 million Black Range Rover; N7 million Toyota Hilux 2014 upgraded to 2021; N12 million Black BMW SURXI 2016; a N8 million White Toyota Hilux 2010 and a N10 million White Toyota Hilux.
The court also heard that they allegedly directly transferred N80 million to Frank Maya Intergerated Ventures, acquired a property known as No.8, Grace Crescent, EFAB Queens Estate, Gwarimpa, Abuja, concealed $140,000 and N326,400,000 in a Black Escalade SUV.