Sterling Bank Plc is currently trapped in a N1.7 billion fraud scandal which has landed one of the bank’s staff in court, causing unrest to the bank’s CEO, Abubakar Suleiman.
The case which is currently before an Ikeja High Court in Lagos state, detailed how Ifeanyichukwu Shallom Isituah, an official staff of Sterling bank and Ighodaro Austin Osaretin, a businessman, allegedly stole the sum of N1,790,558,000. 00k belonging to a customer of the bank.
In the charge sheet seen by FASnews crime reporter, an operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Adamu Mohammed, told the court that the agency received a petition with reference No: SB/IAG/12/EFCC/011 duly signed by the Head IT and Head Intelligence and Investigation on behalf of Sterling Bank.
According to Mohammed, who works with the Team C Cybercrime department of the EFCC, while testifying on oath, the petitioner alleged that a customer’s bank account was profiled via internet banking and the sum of N1,790,558,0 00.00 was transferred to various individuals and companies.
While led in evidence by the prosecutor, N. M. Anana, the witness testified that preliminary investigation by the bank revealed that the second defendant’s profile, Isituah, a female, was used to initiate the account on internet banking and more than twenty (24) accounts got the same amount of money.
Investigation letters were sent to FCMB, Zenith, First Bank, Fidelity Bank and Access Bank and the statement of accounts were analysed after getting responses from the banks.
Meanwhile, the analysis revealed that respondents from the company’s accounts were mostly Bureau de Change.
According to the witness, on March 10, 2020, the DSS handed over the two defendants to the commission under the instruction of the AGF (attorney-general of the Federation) for further investigation. The two defendants’ statements were voluntarily taken under caution.
“The first defendant revealed that he has a company called Universal Agriculture Empowerment Initiative as an NGO which received the sum of N60 million as part of the transfer from that Sterling Bank customer’s account. He further stated that the money was received from one Osaretin (second defendant) and transferred to his account as a donation
“That he introduced one of his friends who is the owner of Villavon International School who also received N100m from the said fraud.
“He further stated that he called a BDC in the name of Damo who owns Damoo Ten Ventures. Damo was invited to the commission and he volunteered a statement that the first defendant contacted him and he transferred N60 million to various accounts and further instructed the owner of the International School to transfer N95 million,” the witness explained.
He testified further that the dollar equivalent was received in cash by the first defendant. The first defendant further stated that the money was used at IDP camps around the country. I cannot remember the specific location but he mentioned a place in Borno and Adamawa.
However, during cross examination by the defence lawyer, A. Okenile, the EFCC operative said that Sterling Bank gave the commission the information that the second defendant profiled the account for the alleged fraud.
When asked what links the second defendant to the alleged fraud, Mohammed responded that the offence was committed at Sterling Bank and it was reported.
“The offence took place during a public holiday and sterling bank realized it on December 28. The accounts of the customer we are talking about has never been profiled for internet banking. So we had to understand how it was transferred, which was through internet banking.
“Sterling bank said the account doesn’t have internet banking access and it was a staff that did it and the second defendant’s profile was used to connect the account to internet banking. Without that profiling money cannot be transferred from that account.
“Even when the bank tried to contact her, she ran away. She was nowhere to be found. Not until the Department of State Services (DSS) traced, arrested her and handed her over to the commission”. Mohammed explained further.
The matter has been adjourned till October 19,2021 for continuation of trial.
Meanwhile, three (3) staffs of the same Sterling bank were also recently arrested by the Lagos zonal office of the EFCC over an alleged case of conspiracy, stealing, forgery and obtaining money by false pretence (OFP).
Kagha Emmanuel Uchenna, Okoro Chinasom Davidson and Egbogu Emmanuel Obiora, all employees of Sterling Bank, allegedly conspired and defrauded a customer of the bank to the tune of N51,978,883.37
EFCC’s investigation exposed the trio after forging the signature and National Identification Management (NIM) number slip of the customer, activated his mobile banking application and fraudulently withdrew the money.
The suspects, who were arrested on July 7, at the Nsukka, Enugu branch of the bank, have since volunteered statements and have been charged to court by the anti-graft agency.