Emmanuel Nwude, a businessman, who was convicted of defrauding a Brazilian bank of $242 million, has denied knowing the source of the funds while testifying on Thursday before an Ikeja Special Offences Court.
Mr. Nwude was convicted by an Ikeja High Court in 2005 for impersonating Paul Ogwuma, a governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), who had served from October 1, 1993 to May 29, 1999 in order to defraud a Brazilian bank.
The bank, Banco Noroeste, was defrauded of 242 million dollars between 1995 and 1998.
As at the time of the incident, it was the third largest bank fraud in history, resulting in the collapse of Banco Noroeste in 2001.
According to the EFCC, Mr. Nwude had convinced a director of the bank, Nelson Sakaguchi, to buy a yet-to-be-built airport in Abuja for $242 million.
The anti-graft agency said Mr. Sakaguchi, who fell for the scam, had between 1995 and 1998 paid $191 million in cash and the remainder in the form of outstanding interest for the nonexistent airport.
Mr. Nwude was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment for the fraud in 2005 by Justice Joseph Oyewole.
His conviction was the first major conviction for the then newly established Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Mr. Nwude, after serving part of his jail term, is, however, back in court alongside two lawyers – Emmanuel Ilechukwu and Roland Kalu.
They face a 15-count charge of forging the documents of the property Justice Oyewole had ordered Mr. Nwude to forfeit to his victims.
The property is located at Plot Y, Mobolaji Johnson street, Oregun Alausa, Ikeja.
Speaking in his defence during Thursday’s proceedings, Mr. Nwude who was led in evidence by defence counsel, Chuks Nwachukwu, denied knowledge of the source of the funds from the 242 million dollars airport scam.
According to him, when he was standing trial for the $242 million scam, he was approached by a member of his legal team, Chris Uche (SAN) in prison who suggested that he make a plea bargain agreement with the EFCC.
He said Mr. Uche had advised that he would make the plea bargain agreement like what was done for Amaka Anajemba (one of his co-defendants in the fake airport scam) so that he would not be solely made to repay the funds to the victims.
He said he refused Mr. Uche’s offer because the funds found in his account by the anti-graft agency were not proceeds of fraud.
I told him that I’m not responsible for the $242 million. That I’m not responsible for this money, I don’t know anything about it.
The EFCC should check all the remittances that came through my accounts, though, I have my friend late Christian Anajemba’s (husband of Amaka, his co-defendant) various bank accounts.
“As money came to my accounts, I gave it to one of my Indian friends, Naresh Asnani, who has contact with a Swiss bank, who in turn does the exchange for me.
“When the money comes in, he (Asnani) takes his commission and I’ll take my commission and I give the large sum to Christian Anajemba,” Mr. Nwude said.
Mr. Nwude also accused a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Olisa Agbakoba, of abandoning him two weeks after he collected N27 million out of the N30 million fee he charged him for legal representation during his trial for the $242 million scam.
After G.O. K. Ajayi (SAN), I brought in Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) to stand for me.
I have never been in court before, I never had experience of court. When I brought Agbakoba, he charged me N30 million and I paid him N27 million.
Two weeks later Agbakoba asked me to bring more money and I said no because I just paid him N27 million. He said he wanted the money to pursue an appeal.
He said if I did not pay the balance he would not appear in my matter again. I told him to go to hell.
“On the next adjournment, he refused to come and I was stranded in court, then EFCC introduced Rickey Tarfa (SAN) to me,” Mr. Nwude said.
Justice Mojisola Dada adjourned the case until May 24 for continuation of trial.