Billionaire Alakija fights dirty with staff over N3m fraud
Billionaire businesswoman, Mrs. Folorunso Alakija, on Thursday told an Ikeja High Court how one Vincent Ayewah, an employee of her Rose of Sharon Foundation, allegedly defrauded her of N3m.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Vincent, who was employed by Alakija as a clerk and administrative officer, is standing trial alongside his siblings, Florence and Emmanuel, as well as four others for fraud.
The other defendants are Onuwa David, Okoronkwo Chikadibia, Ehizibolo George and Chinyere Awanah.
Vincent was accused of defrauding Alakija’s foundation of the fund by forging cheques and conniving with his siblings and cohorts to pose to banks as beneficiaries of the foundation.
Alakija, while being led in evidence by Mr. M.D. Aliyu, the prosecuting counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, told the court how Vincent allegedly stole the money.
Her testimony lasted from 2 pm to 3.23 pm.
She said: “On November 13, 2012, I was called by my treasurer, Gladys Efiozor, who said that she received a call from Stanbic IBTC that there was a forgery of a cheque.
“I told her to send me an email of the forged cheque and when I saw it, I told her that the signature was not mine.
“There are three signatories to that account and the forged signature did not match those of the other signatories.
“Florence (Vincent’s sister) was the one caught with the cheque; the bank called EFCC to investigate and Florence was handed over to the EFCC.
“It was discovered that the bag she was carrying had 12 different identity cards of beneficiaries of the foundation, with her photographs on the identity cards.
“The bag also contained cash collected from other banks from the foundation’s account.”
Alakija also told the court that she confronted Vincent and seized his mobile phone after he had received a suspicious call.
She also claimed that Vincent deleted an incriminating text message from his phone.
“He admitted to the fraud and begged for mercy; he had done other infractions in the past and had begged for mercy anytime he was caught,’’ Alakija added.
Alakija told the court that Vincent enjoyed a new lifestyle with proceeds from the alleged scam, claiming he bought new car which he parked far away from the office premises to avoid detection.
“A blank cheque and a survey plan of a property was in his car.
“He had committed infractions before, begged for mercy and I forgave him. I thought that with warning, he will change,” the businesswoman said.
But while being cross-examined by Mr, Obiora Umeh, the defence counsel to the Ayewahs and other defendants, Alakija gave further insight into the alleged fraud.
“There are widows and orphans that need to be empowered. I had one project manager at the time that Vincent Ayewah was reporting to.
“When he needed to write the cheques, he had to handle the cheque book. I knew he was issuing the cheques because it was part of his duty.
“The auditors must have gone through the list of beneficiaries and approved it. I can’t remember now if they were going through the cheque books because our systems have since changed.
“The issue at hand is that the first defendant (Vincent) had taken blank cheques and written the names of the beneficiaries on them.
“Vincent’s siblings had gone to pose in banks as the original beneficiaries.
“Even if it wasn’t a blank cheque he had torn out and he had followed the normal sequence of things, they will still go and pose as beneficiaries,’’ Alakija said.
Justice Hakeem Oshodi adjourned the case till October 25 for a continuation of trial.