An Executive Director of First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Dauda Lawal, has accused the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of falsifying the circumstances under which he surrendered N9.08billion 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 EFCC to obtain an order of forfeiture from the court.
A copy of the affidavit was obtained last night.
In an affidavit obtained by THISDAY yesterday, Lawal denied ever being in possession of properties suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activity held or laundered on behalf of Mrs. Alison-Madueke.
He said following his arrest on May 9, 2016, he cooperated with the EFCC and made a full admission to having received $25million.
“Having provided evidence to the EFCC of how the $25million so obtained had been disbursed, I was still made to agree to surrender to the EFCC an additional sum of N9.08billion being the naira equivalent of $40million at the rate of N227 to $1,” he said.
He said based on the agreement, he surrendered N5billion in order to regain his freedom last May 13, but that EFCC reneged on the agreement to release him despite surrendering 56 per cent of the total amount.
Lawal said he made statements to EFCC as to the circumstances he released the money.
“Had the EFCC disclosed my witness statements to Justice Muslim Hassan, he would not have granted them the interim order for forfeiture on 6 January 2017,” he said.
Lawal said he received a call from a personal friend, Stanley Lawson, around March 2015 to help collect $25million from someone in Lagos, 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 the EFCC allegedly compelled him to provide the funds.
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 $40million which I was yet to account for.
“They were alleging that I had in fact taken $65million as opposed to the $25million 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 payment of their suggested shortfall available to them.
“As 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 $40million 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 20 May 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 N9.08billion.”
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 N9.08billion to him.
EFCC, in its response to the counter-affidavit, said the N9.08billion, “being proceeds of the unlawful activities retained by the second respondent (Lawal) was recovered from him voluntarily by the applicant”.
“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.