The former Chairman of Skye Bank Plc (now Polaris Bank), Tunde Ayeni and three others as the defendants in the N25.4billion have agreed to refund over N15b to the Federal Government both in property and cash.
Other defendants in the case are a former Managing Director of Skye Bank, Timothy Ajani Oguntayo and two firms – Control Dredging Company Ltd and Royaltex Paramount Ventures Ltd.
They are facing two separate charges – marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/37/2018 and FHC/ABJ/CR/224/2018 – boarding on money laundering offences before Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Lawyers to parties in both charges have confirmed an ongoing move for a settlement agreement, which is in the process of being finalised.
At an earlier sitting, lawyer to the EFCC, Samuel Chime told the court that parties have made considerable progress in the effort to conclude the case without going to trial.
Chime said the defendants surrendered property in Lagos to the prosecution, which they (the defendants) claimed worth N15b, but which the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) valued at not more than N10b.
The lawyer to the prosecution said the delay in concluding the agreement was because the CBN and AMCON insist that the defendants make up the shortfall.
“The prosecution receives property in Lagos for the settlement of the infraction in this matter, which the defendant pegs at about N15b.
“We needed to revert to CBN and AMCON, who are the nominal complainants and investors in Skye Bank and Polaris Bank
“AMCON did not accept the property to be N15b, they said it is N10b. We had to write back to the defendants to make up the shortfall,” Chime said.
Other lawyers, Ahmed Raji (SAN), who represented the first, third and fourth defendants (Ayeni, and both firms) and Mobolaji Kuti, who represented the second defendant (Oguntayo) agreed with Chime’s account of the state of affairs.
Raji added: “I also wish to inform the court that there is an agreement in place and there has been substantial compliance.
“And, it is just a matter of adding to what has been submitted and accepted and the matter will be laid to rest.”
At the last hearing on March 1, 2021, the lawyer to the prosecution, Suraj Sa’ eda (SAN) said parties were yet to conclude on the settlement agreement, but that they were still talking.
Sa’eda attributed the delay to the recent change of guard in the EFCC and the need for other interested parties – the CBN and AMCON – to be carried along.
He said: “the matters have not been concluded. The proposal has not been fully accepted.
“The proposal has not been outrightly rejected. But, I have made some comments on it, waiting for the final decision of the agency.
“In the prosecuting agency, there are some changes. This matter is going to be appraised by the new chairman. For this reason, we crave the indulgence of the court,” Sa’eda said and sought an adjournment.
Raji informed the court that his clients have made further payments in furtherance of the agreement and that the agreement was closed to being finalised.
He said: “There is what I will call an agreement already between the Federal Government and the defendants as to the quantum of the outstanding liability, which in characterisation, is like a commercial issue.
“However, the only thing outstanding is the mode of settlement and time of the balance. As to the quantum of the commercial liability, that has been agreed by the parties.
“And, in furtherance of this, the defendants, on the 26th of February 2021, made a further good faith payment to the bank by transfer.”
Raji agreed with the prosecution that there was a need for more time to allow the “settlement of the outstanding commercial liability.”
He stated: “There is an agreement that we are going to pay an ex-amount of money.
“We made some payment last week, in addition to what was paid, which is more than 70 per cent of what was agreed,” Raji said.
Olawale Akoni (SAN), who represented the second defendant, said he confirmed what the lawyer to the other defendants said.
Akoni said “I associate myself with the submission of counsel to the other defendants.