Nigerian Bank Wins U.K. Order Freezing Assets of Former Chief Akingbola
Intercontinental Bank Plc, a Nigerian lender bailed out by the country’s central bank, won a U.K. court order freezing 83 million pounds ($127 million) in assets held by its former chief executive officer.
The bank won the global-freeze order in January in a lawsuit accusing Erastus Akingbola of using the bank’s money to help buy apartments in London and enrich entities he controlled. The bank yesterday won permission from a judge to add new claims to the case, alleging that Akingbola wrongfully directed the lender to buy its own shares, resulting in a loss.
The money was “misappropriated by the defendant and is due to the claimant,” the bank said in court papers. Akingbola used the money in “breach of fiduciary duty.”
The Central Bank of Nigeria said the country had asked the U.K. to extradite Akingbola so he can face charges, which include mismanagement of Intercontinental. Companies outside Britain frequently use London courts to secure global freezes, including Glitnir Bank hf’s freeze this year on assets of former Baugur Group hf Chairman Jon Asgeir Johannesson.
Akingbola’s lawyer, Ed Crosse of Osborne Clarke in London, declined to comment. Akingbola’s defense papers filed March 19 say the alleged transactions were either valid or were mischaracterized in the lawsuit.
“Those claims are false, and have been made by the bank without any sincere belief that they are true,” Akingbola said in the filing.
Akingbola has only been able to pay half of his legal fees of about 1 million pounds. The judge gave Akingbola permission to sell an $850,000 home in Ghana or two apartments in London worth a total of about 1 million pounds to begin paying the remaining costs.
Under the freeze order, Akingbola was supposed to be able to pay for his defense using an HSBC Holdings Plc trustee account on the island of Guernsey in the English Channel. The bank declined to release the funds after it was approached by Nigeria, possibly triggering another legal dispute, Akingbola’s lawyer said in court.
The Nigerian bank’s lawyer, Segun Osuntokun of Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP in London, declined to comment.
Akingbola served as the bank’s managing director from 1989 until August, when he was fired. He was among leaders of Nigeria’s commercial banks that were forced out by the central bank after the lenders gave out non-performing loans totaling 700 billion naira ($4.65 billion).
The U.K. Home Office didn’t immediately have a comment today on Nigeria’s extradition request. Akingbola has been living in the U.K. since last year.