An Ikeja High Court, Lagos was yesterday told how the fraud allegedly perpetrated against Vanguard Media Ltd was hatched by the former company’s financial controller, Mr. Yisha Badmus and two senior regional officers with the company, James Unoka and Ejike Ezeobi.
The trio are standing trial before Justice Atinuke Ipaye over alleged forgery and defrauding Vanguard to the tune of several millions of naira.
At the resumed hearing of the case yesterday, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, presented Mr. Lawrence Adekunle Ajayi as its second witness who was the auditor that audited the books of the company that revealed the said fraud.
He is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and a partner in Ajayi & Co., chartered accountants.
Led in evidence by the EFCC lawyer, Mr. Abba Mohammed, the prosecution witness gave vivid account of how he was hired by the company through its Chairman, Mr. Sam Amuka to examine the account books of the company between 2007-2009.
Mr. Ajayi told the court that moment he was given the assignment, he visited all the out-stations of the company including the FederalCapitalTerritory, where he got books on transactions of sales and the remittance made by the officials to the company.
He noted at the conclussion of their investigations, reports were prepared and handed over to the company chairman. He disclosed that he was not aware of any probe leading to the court trial until he was invited by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC over the case.
According to him, for him to succeed on the “special investigation job” given to him by Vanguard, he specifically visited those out stations where there were reports of financial anomalies, from where his team of chartered accountants examined sales returns, cash remittances and the bank tellers meant for payments.
He said : “We got our report through returns filed to the company by the officers. We also checked the company’s account records. We met the staff at the stations including circulation executives responsible for selling of newspapers and how they remit the proceeds.
”It was from our investigations that we discovered that the United Bank for Africa tellers were not in agreement with the sales. For instance, teller number 6633835 of November 7, 2007 revealled the remittance of N254,200, when same teller read N4,200 in the UBA teller paid into the company’s account.
”We probed further what the problem was, we observed that they always left space at the beginning of the tellers and at the end and when they come back to the office they will fill in the remaining figures. After the discovery, I travelled to Onisha and met with the 2nd defendant (Unoka James), who confirmed what we discovered and that it was collusion between him and the 1st defendant (Badmus) who was then the Chief Accountant.
”He also admitted that the differences between what was supposed to be deposited and what was paid were shared between him and the 2nd defendant. He said he normally paid his (2nd defendant) share into a particular bank account given to him by Mr. Badmus. He showed tellers he used in making payments into the account. These tellers were submitted to the company alongside my report. ”From there we returned to Lagos and concluded our investigations and prepared my report dated November 11 and November 17, 2009.”
Under cross examinations by lawyers to both Badmus and Unoka, Messrs O. Ganiyu and S. Akweh respectively, the witness emphasised that he was never an external auditor to the company and he never had anything to do with the defedants, especially the ex-accountant before he was commissioned for the investigation.
He also revealed that in his report, some managers, including the former internal Auditor, Mr Umana and former administrative manager, were indicted for negligence of duty.
Asked whether he was paid to indict the defendants and that the report was written “without basis”, the witness said he was a seasoned and professional accountant who came to do a professional work to unravel fraud.
After the two matters involving Badmus and Unoka were adjourned till January 15 and 27 respectively, the court called the third case involving Badmus and Ejike Ezeobi, another sales representative in the East but did not hear the case because of another official engagement by the trial judge who latter adjourned till January 27 for further trial.