N32.9bn Fraud: Only N598,000 Left in Mompha’s Bank Account, Witness Tells Court
The Nation – A Federal High Court in Ikoyi on Friday heard that suspected internet fraudster Ismaila Mustapha, alias Mompha, has a bank account balance of only N598,000.
Mompha is accused of retaining an aggregate of N32.9bn in the bank account of his alleged firm, Ismalob Global Investment Ltd, between 2015 and 2018.
The defendant was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Monday, alongside Ismalob Global Investment,
The internet celebrity is facing 14 counts of alleged fraud, money laundering and running a foreign exchange business without the authorisation of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
At the opening of trial on Friday, EFCC counsel Mr Rotimi Oyedepo presented three witnesses before Justice Mohammad Liman.
A CBN official, Mrs Anne Ezekannagha, who testified as the first witness, told the court that the CBN had no record of licensing Ismalob Global Investment Limited as a Bureau de Change (BDC) operator.
She said for the CBN to licence a firm as a BDC operator, such firm must show evidence of incorporation as a limited liability company by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
She explained that all licensed BDCs have a transaction limit of $5,000.
When the defence counsel, Oyewole, asked her whether it was unlawful for an individual who has foreign currency in his domiciliary account to give foreign currency to a friend in exchange for naira, the CBN official said it would not be unlawful if it was not a commercial transaction.
She said it becomes a commercial transaction if it involves making profit and it would be illegal.
The commission’s second witness, Peter Adegoke, told the judge that evidence showed that Mompha was the sole signatory to Ismalob Global’s naira account.
Reading from the firm’s statement of account, Adegoke told the court that between 2015 and October 2019, there was a total inflow of N18.5bn into the account, while a total of about N18bn moved out within the same period.
He said the account had a balance of N598,000.
A Benin City-based BDC operator, Ikenna Okafor, who testified as the third prosecution witness, told the court that he did business with Ismalob Global Investment Limited through “one of its directors, Alhaji Ahmadu Mohammed.”
Okafor said Mohammed used to come to his base in Benin, Edo State, to buy Euro in the name of Ismalob Global Investment Limited.
“After negotiation with Ismalob Global Investment Limited through Alhaji Mohammed, he usually made payment into my account through Ismalob,” Okafor said.
Under cross-examination by Oyewole, Okafor said he met Mompha for the first time three days ago at the EFCC office in Ikoyi.
The BDC operator said he was himself detained for seven days by the EFCC before being released on an administrative bail during the week.
Justice Liman adjourned further proceedings till January 8, 2020.
Meanwhile, the judge admitted Mompha to bail in the sum of N100m with one surety who must be a landed property owner.
He was ordered to deposit his passport with the Chief Registrar of the court and report at the EFCC office every fortnight to show that he has not left the country.
In the charge, the EFCC alleged that Mompha laundered the funds in tranches of N18,059,353,413 billion and N14,946,773,393.00 billion.
The commission further alleged that the defendant, not being a financial institution, or an authorised foreign exchange dealer, negotiated a foreign exchange transaction in the sums of N9.416million, N20 million, N10,437,400.00, N10miillion, N2.46million, N10miillion, N100million, N61million, N100million, N40.7million and N42million.