Joshua Dariye, former Plateau State governor.

Joshua Dariye, former Plateau State governor.

A former staff of the defunct All States Trust Bank, Adonye Roberts, on June 17, 2016 told a Federal Capital Territory, FCT, High Court, Gudu, Abuja, that a former governor of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye, illegally operated an account with the bank in the name of Ebenezer Retnan Ventures, ERV, with the aim of concealing his identity as the owner of the account.

Dariye is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, before Justice Adebukola Banjoko, on a 23-count charge bordering on money laundering and diversion of funds. He is alleged to have siphoned the state’s ecological fund to the tune of N1.16 billion, diverting part of it to ERV – an unregistered company run by him and in whose name he maintained a “private banking” account with ASTB.

Roberts who told the court that he is a 1989 graduate of Texas Southern University, Houston, Texas, USA, admitted that Dariye did not fulfil all the requirements needed for the operation of a “private banking” account.

Under cross-examination by defence counsel, G. S. Pwul, SAN, Roberts, the first witness called by the defence, explained that “private banking” was a special product for businessmen who do not have the time to go to the banking hall to transact their business.

“It’s a banking product mainly for high-networth customers, persons like captains of industry, governors,” he said.

The witness, who was literally put on the hot seat, by prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, however, admitted that though it was legitimate to run a private bank account, Dariye did not comply with the bank’s rules as regards opening and running such an account.

Identifying the various account opening documents, which had been admitted by the court as exhibits, Roberts told the court that though the account was opened in the name of a company, “the information on the documents indicate that an individual was the one operating it”.

According to him, on the forms for opening the account for Ebenezer Retnan Ventures, it was indicated that the occupation of the account holder was “businessman”, the employer was “self”, and there was no traceable contact address.

Roberts admitted that the signature on the form was that of Dariye, and that it had no photo of him, and lacked all the necessary documents needed for the operation of a “private banking” account, or an account for a company. He added that the necessary sections to have been signed by the account officer were vacant, and that nothing was stated in the reference section.

“The authorised signature was that of Joshua Dariye and it was only signed in the presence of A. A. Odesa as witness,” he said.

Jacobs challenged Roberts that the intention was to conceal the identity of the owner of the account, with the intention of using it for fraudulent transactions, and “it is wrong for a bank not to have a true identity of its customer”.

Pwul raised an objection to the question, but he was overruled by Justice Banjoko, who noted that the question to Roberts, was put to him based on his professional experience as a banker.

Admitting that “it is wrong”, Roberts also told the court that he assisted Dariye to source for foreign currencies, as a staff of the Abuja branch of ASTB, even though the former governor did not have a domiciliary account with the bank.

Roberts further identified a Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, cheque of N1.162 billion meant for the Plateau State’s ecological fund, and a handwritten letter signed by Dariye, instructing the management of ASTB to disburse the funds into the accounts of Ebenezer Retnan Ventures, Pinnacle Communications Limited, Union Homes, Plateau State government and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP South West.

Justice Banjoko, thereafter, adjourned to June 27, 2016 for the defence to present its other witnesses.