The Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos State, on Monday, April 3, 2023, admitted in evidence more documents tendered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against a businessman, Kolawole Adedayo Erinle, alongside his firm, Rinde-Remdex Nigeria Limited.
The businessman and his company are standing trial on a three-count charge bordering on conspiracy, retention of proceeds of criminal conduct, and obtaining money under false pretence to the tune of $1.4 million.
The defendant was alleged to have defrauded the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences (KCUMB) in the United States of $1.4 million.
They were previously arraigned before Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos on March 11, 2022.
However, the trial could not commence before the retirement of Justice Taiwo, thereby prompting the re-assignment of the case to Justice R.A. Oshodi.
One of the charges read: “Kolawole Adedayo Erinle and Edward Dada (still at large), sometime in 2019, at Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, conspired to falsely represent yourselves as J.E. Dunn, a local construction company in America, with intent to gain monetary advantage in the sum of $1,410,000 (One Million Four-Hundred and Ten Thousand United States Dollars) by creating a fake domain name jedunn.org and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 8 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act No 14, 2006.”
Another count read: “Kolawole Adedayo Erinle, Rinde-Remdex Nigeria Limited and Edward Dada (still at large) on or about the 3rd day of May 2019, at Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, retain the control of $1,410,000 (One Million Four-Hundred and Ten Thousand United States Dollars) in your Access Bank account, which sum you knew to be proceeds of various internet and cybercrime.”
The businessman, again, pleaded “not guilty” to the charges when he was arraigned before Justice Oshodi.
At Monday’s proceedings, the court admitted some documents tendered by the counsel for the EFCC, T.J. Banjo, as part of evidence to prove the case against the defendant.
The documents included bundles of correspondences between the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) relating to the alleged offence, as well as extrajudicial statements made to the EFCC by one Victoria, the mother of the defendant and one A. Abdulazeez, a clearing agent that helped the defendant in the clearing of vehicles imported into the country.
The fourth prosecution witness, Alex Ogbole, an EFCC’s investigator, had, on February 10, 2023, told the court that the EFCC led the Nigerian-end of the investigation into the alleged crime, and that investigation showed that the mother was a beneficiary.
He had told the court that the EFCC received a petition from the FBI which indicated that the victim of the alleged fraud, KCUMB, had been a victim of Business Email Compromise (BEC).
However, when the prosecution sought to tender the correspondences between the EFCC and the FBI, which also included a judgment of a US court convicting the defendant of an eight-count charge bordering on bank fraud, which saw him serve a 27-month jail term, the defence counsel, Lawal Pedro, SAN, raised objections to their admissibility.
Arguments were, thereafter, taken by the court, as both parties argued on the admissibility or otherwise of the said documents.
After listening to the arguments, Justice Oshodi dismissed the objection raised by the defence, noting that “the weight should be considered, and relevance is key to admissibility”.
Justice Oshodi, thereafter, admitted the statements of the mother as Exhibit Q to Q3; statement of Abdulazeez as Exhibit Q4; the FBI correspondence dated December 21, 2022 as Exhibit Q5; the FBI correspondence dated March 8, 2022 and February 8, 2022 as Exhibit Q6 and Q7, respectively.
Ogbole, who began his testimony on February 10, 2023, further testified in his examination-in-chief led by Banjo that Rinde-Remdex Nigeria Limited, a company owned by the defendant, received the $1.4 million from the Bank of America account of one Edada Autoparts and Machinary Spareparts Inc.
He said: “Edada was the primary recipient of the proceeds of the Business Email Compromise, BEC.”$850,000 was first credited to Rinde-Remdex Nigeria Limited here in Nigeria, following which another $560,000 was sent to the account, totalling $1.4 million.
“When the money got in, between March 6, 2019 and March 15, 2019, it was disbursed by Erinle at various times.”
According to the witness, the defendant, “who took possession of the proceeds of the fraud, tried to explain that there was one Edward Dada, but he couldn’t provide any information on the said Dada, and our investigation revealed that the said Dada never existed.”
Earlier in the course of proceedings, Pedro had moved the bail application for his client, which was strongly opposed by the prosecution.
“We concede that bail is at the discretion of the court and that the offence is a bailable offence. But it must be exercised judicially, considering the facts before the honourable court,” he said.
Justice Oshodi, therefore, adjourned the case till April 4, 2023, for ruling on the bail application.