The N32.9billion fraud trial of alleged internet fraudster, Ismaila Mustapha, a.k.a Mompha, Friday, began at a Federal High Court in Lagos with the prosecution calling a Central Bank witness.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) charged Mompha with 14 counts bordering on fraud, money laundering and running a foreign exchange business without authorisation by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
He was arraigned alongside a firm, Ismalob Global Investment Ltd. EFCC accused the defendant of procuring Ismalob Global Investment Ltd and retaining in its account, an aggregate sum of N32.9billion between 2015 and 2018. He had pleaded not guilty to the charges.
When the case was called on Friday, the prosecution called its first witness, Mrs Anne Nnenna Ezekannagha, a Senior Manager with the Central Bank of Nigeria. The witness introduced herself as working in the Trade and Investment Department of the Bank. Led in examination by the prosecution, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, the witness told the court that her department also regulates Bureau De Change Operations (BDC)
When asked how the BDC operations ought to be regulated, she told the court that a BDC operator must have its business incorporated with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). She added that the operator must also possess all requisite document incidental to the operations of a BDC. Oyedepo then asked the witness to confirm to the court if from the records of the CBN, the company Ismalo Investment Ltd is registered as a BDC.
She replied no, saying “We have reviewed our records and we do not have any record of that name.” Oyedepo then asked the witness that if she sees a copy of the CBN review she will be able to recognize same and she replied, yes.
After the witness was shown the document , she confirmed it as the review and the prosecutor sought to tender it as exhibit in court. There was no objection from defence counsel. Justice Mohammed Liman admitted the document as exhibit A. When asked what the monetary limit of a BDC in foreign exchange is, the witness replied 5,000 dollars. Meanwhile, under cross examination by defence counsel Mr Gboyega Oyewole, SAN, the witness told the court that she joined the CBN in 2004.
She confirmed that although several departments regulate foreign exchange, her department is responsible for BDC operations. When asked if an individual with private funds could deal with the BDC on foreign exchange, she replied that such dealings must be authorised. Justice Liman has adjourned further proceedings until Jan. 8, 2020.
Meanwhile, the judge admitted Mompha to bail in the sum of N100million with one surety who must be a landed property owner. The defendant was ordered to deposit his International passport with the Deputy Chief Registrar of the court and report at the EFCC office fortnightly.