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Ecobank Employees Panic in Theft Case?

Prosecuting lawyer representing Ecobank-Liberia Limited, Counselor Theophilous T.C. Gould Wednesday questioned defense “What is their fear”, for allegedly playing delay tactics, when the defense lawyers sought the denial of two prosecution’s first witnesses.

The case in hand involved five Ecobank’s employees, including defendants Stanley Johnson, Glen Washington, David Yenego, Mandela Kaiser and Othello Smith, who were jointly indicted on multiple crimes of theft, misapplication of entrusted property, criminal facilitation and criminal conspiracy. They were accused of stealing US$378,676.26 from the bank in May, June, August and November 2011, but have denied the claims.

Upon reading the indictment to a 15-man jury panel at Criminal Court “C” Wednesday, state lawyers begged the court to qualify its first batch of witnesses, including Ruth Sawmalda, Eric Gbadoe and Olufemi Adunkle.

Ruth Sawmald, the lady who allegedly permitted the defendants to use her account in executing their alleged double cash transfer – first to Ecobank’s customers, and then putting the others into her account; as well as Ecobank’s Head of Internal Audit Olufemi Adunkle were qualified following arguments between both parties.

As to the case of prospective witness Eric Gbadoe, who is Ecobank’s Head of Reconciliation, Criminal Court “C” Judge Peter Gbenewleh ordered prosecution to file his name as amended listing from Wednesday until Friday, September 7, 2012.

Prior to the witnesses being qualified, defense counsels, including David Woah, Karboi Johnson, Arthur Johnson and Swahilo Sesay, among others objected on grounds that their names were not in the indictment, despite prosecution’s claims to have earlier submitted a discovery proceedings instrument to the defense, carrying the witnesses’ names.

However, in his testimony at the Temple of Justice, witness Olufemi Adunkle told the court and jury that in December 2011, Ecobank’s Reconciliation Team discovered about six to seven debit balances or entries that did not correspond with credit entries, and subsequently referred them to the bank’s internal audit for investigation.

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The internal audit’s investigation claimed to have discovered that inward transfer was duplicated, accusing the defendants of crediting the [actual] customer’s account and at the same time using the same instruments to credit a fraudulent account.

Witness Adunkle said the defendants managed to obtain ID Cards, and were allegedly using two accounts, which include Ruth Sawmalda’s and one Yassa Afropont’s accounts to transfer the money.

The witness testified that a total of US$478.00 was withdrawn by the defendants from Ecobank, using Ruth and Yassa’s accounts, but claimed co-defendant David Yenego had allegedly resigned before the issue came out.

He claimed that during the investigation, Stanley Johnson’s landlady Yassa Afropont revealed that she was awarded US$300.00 after using her account, and she in return gave Stanley US$100.00, unknowing that they had fraudulently transferred money into her account.

As for Ruth Sawmalda, Adunkle claimed that “her boyfriend Glen Washington, requested for her permission to use her account, and that she didn’t accompany him to deposit or withdraw all the money from her account.

About a month ago, witness Adunkle claimed that four of the defendants, including David Yenego, Othello Smith, Mandela Kaiser and Glen Washington converged at a meeting with top management of Ecobank at the University of Liberia at which time they allegedly apologized for the wrong and assured the bank that they would pay back the money.

Adunkle said, “shortly after [about] three weeks, lawyers representing the defendants reportedly delivered a letter to Ecobank, stipulating how the money would be paid, and also listed properties they would turn over to the bank to settle the fraud.”

However, Judge Peter Gbenewleh ruled that as to one of the instruments of July 27, 2012 marked as state evidence, the defendants’ lawyer waived their right under Chapter 21, Section 21.3 by signing the instrument.

Meanwhile, the case has been adjourned for Friday, September 7, 2012.

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