A prosecution witness, Abasiekong Udobang on Thursday told a Lagos High Court how a Fellow of Chartered Accountant and two other staff of Hope Worldwide Foundation stole the sum of one billion naira meant for the treatment of people living with Acquired Immunized deficiency (AIDs) and the less privileged in the society.
The first witness in the alleged fraud trial, , Abasiekong who works with MTN Nigeria Limited as a Project Manager, informed the court that MTN Foundation is a subsidiary of MTN Nigeria established with the purpose of giving back to the society through their corporate social responsibility programmes (CSR) and this involves opening of dialysis centers and other medical support.
The defendants, Owolabi Kayode Samuel, Esther Olubukola Mate, Abinbola David, Cumulative Ventures Limited, Continental Best Buy Limited and others at large are standing trial on three count charge bordering on conspiracy and stealing, a charge preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Led in evidence by EFCC counsel, K.M.A Olushesi, the witness told the court how the defendant’s who were all representing Hope Worldwide Nigeria, a non governmental organisations defrauded MTN Nigeria.
According to him, MTN in 2005 engaged Hope Worldwide in order to implement two of their medical support programs, ‘Partners Against Malaria and Aids (PAMAC) AND Children and the Orphaned in the community.
“MTN usually gives funds to Hope Worldwide Nigeria since they are non-governmental organisations on quarterly basis and those funds were usually retired to MTN Foundation as a proof that the work was done.
“Every year we usually works towards a new agenda until 2012 when we became suspicious of some of their retirements”.
The witness further said that the case was reported to the Business Risk Units of MTN (BRU) who investigated the matter and it was discovered that there was misappropriation of funds.
“Following the information from BRU, we discovered that funds meant for buying drugs for centers for HIV/AIDs victims were misappropriated.
“It was also discovered that documents were added in the names of two companies whom we don’t have any dealings with.
After the findings from the BRU, the matter was reported to EFCC for further investigation”, he said.
While being crossed-examined by the defence Counsel, Mr. J. O Odubela SAN, he confirmed that the money meant for the treatment of the AIDs victim was usually paid to Hope Worldwide quarterly.
He also disclosed that after the fraud was discovered, members from the NGO were invited for a meeting to tell them the findings of BRU and and a letter was written to them to inform them of their the itemized fraud , and the contract was thereafter terminated.
Abasiekong, who insisted a letter itemized the area where they suspected the alleged fraud but he however could not present the letter written to Hope Worldwide in court.
The trial Judge, Justice Hakeem Oshodi however adjourned the matter till June 26 for continuation of trial.
Earlier, at the resume of the proceedings the defendants, Owolabi Kayode Samuel, Esther Olubukola Mate, Abimbola David- Orugun , Cumulative Ventures Limited, Continental Best Buy Limited and one Olaosebikan Candido, Abosede Fasasi who are both at large were arraigned on a three counts charge of conspiracy to stealing and stealing.
According to the anti-graft agency, the defendants sometimes in January 2007, in Lagos conspired to steal property of MTN Foundation set up to cater for the less privileged victims across the country.
The defendant were also alleged to have stole the sum of three million , five hundred and fifty six thousand naira. (3556,000.00), belonging to MTN Foundation.
EFCC also alleged that the defendants fraudulently converted the sum of one million, twenty thousand (1020,00,00) meant to cater HIV/AIDs patients and other less privileged in the society.
The offenses according to EFCC contravenes sections 516, 285 of the criminal law of Lagos State 2003, 2007 and 2011.
The defendants all pleaded not guilty to the charge.
The defense counsel, J.O Odubela SAN informed the court that he has filed a bail application on behalf of the 1st defendant-3rd defendant.
Odubela urged the court to grant the defendants bail on liberal terms.
” My Lord, the first defendant is a Fellow of the Institute Of Chartered Accountant and a former Rotary president in Omole, and he cannot jump bail.
In his response, EFCC counsel said he will not be opposing the bail application because the defendants have never flaunt the administration bail granted to them by EFCC.
Justice Oshodi grants the defendants bail in the sum of two million naira each .
In his ruling ” Oshodi said, the defendants are hereby granted bail in self recognizance., they are to pay the sum of two million each to the Chief registrar and their international passport should also be submitted to the appropriate authority.
Credit- Independent Newspaper