Nigeria graft agency detains returned ex-bank boss

by Nick Tattersall | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 4 August 2010 15:35 GMT

LAGOS, Aug 4 (Reuters) - Nigeria's anti-corruption agency detained a former bank chief on Wednesday following his return from Britain, a year after he was declared wanted to face graft charges in the wake of a $4 billion bank sector bailout.

Erastus Akingbola, former chief executive of Intercontinental Bank <INTERCO.LG>, left for Britain after he and the heads of four other banks were sacked by the central bank and charged with graft and money laundering last August.

Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which declared Akingbola "wanted", said last month it had written to the British Home Office requesting his extradition. [ID:nLDE66818R]

Akingbola returned to Nigeria late on Tuesday in what family sources told local media was an effort to clear his name.

"We have detained him and seized his travel documents because investigations are ongoing. The outcome of investigations will determine the next line of action," EFCC spokesman Femi Babafemi said.

The central bank injected $4 billion into nine lenders including Intercontinental last year, saying reckless lending and inadequate risk management had left them so weakly capitalised they posed a systemic risk.

Akingbola was charged in absentia a year ago in Lagos, where half a dozen other directors of Intercontinental also stand accused of granting loans to companies in which they have interests, and failing to ensure the bank met minimum capital adequacy and liquidity requirements.

The court ordered the freezing of Akingbola's accounts and assets totalling around 346 billion naira ($2.3 billion) and $10 million pending the final determination of the 28-count charge against him.

Akingbola challenged the asset freeze in court and asked to be reinstated. His lawyers argued that Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi did not follow due process in removing him from his job.

"Akingbola's voluntary return to the country is to defend himself against all allegations against him in the law courts," Nigeria's This Day newspaper quoted an unnamed family source as saying.

"He is presently consulting with his legal team and the outcome of these consultations would determine his next steps."

Akingbola's lawyer could not immediately be reached.

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(Additional reporting by Camillus Eboh in Abuja; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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