Monday, September 28, 2020

‘I am a victim of circumstances’ ÔÇô Nigerian alleged fraudster tells court

Enunwe Obinna, the Nigerian citizen and owner of the bank account into which fraudulent cheques worth hundreds of thousands of Pula were deposited this week told the court that he knew nothing about the cheques and was just “a victim of circumstances.”

Obinna is alleged to have swindled several banking institutions in Botswana of hundreds of thousands of pula by forging Botswana Insurance Company cheques.

While cross examining witnesses this week, Obinna pursued a line of questioning that would build on his insistence that he is a “victim of circumstances.”

When cross examining one BIC staff member, Ofentse Mabote, Obinna asked her if she knew that he was not the person who altered BIC cheques he is accused of having altered and that the person who did that had used his name to commit the crime.

Answering this question, Mabote said that she did not know about that and Obinna then told her that it was true that he did not alter the cheques and that he was, in fact, “a victim of circumstances”.

When Obinna asked her if she could say that the police were right in arresting him, Mabote said that the question could better be answered by the police.

Mabote said that what she knew was that Obinna was the payee of the cheques from BIC and that he had withdrawn the money.
The accused person then told Mabote that he could not have deposited fraudulent cheques in his account because he knew quite well that the matter was going to “back fire” on him.

To this, Mabote said that she does not know how the accused person was thinking.

Earlier on, when giving evidence in chief, Mabote told the Court that they got concerned about the cheques they had paid out when they discovered clear signs that they had been altered and that they did not have the name of Obinna, who was paid by their cheques, in their records.

One of such cheques, she said, was supposed to have been paid to Tshweu Construction but that it was altered and it ended up paying Obinna.

This, she said, led them to start investigating the matter internally and finally reporting it to the police.
When asked if the signature on the cheques did not belong to the BIC signatories, Mabote said that they did have the signatures of the signatories but that it was clear that the cheques had not been written at BIC or those cheques which were written by BIC had been altered.

The Finance officer of BIC, Johannes Classen, told the Court that he came to know about the issue of their cheques having been presented to the bank fraudulently after he was informed by one of his staff members.

After that, he told the staff member to obtain the copies of the cheques from the bank and that, on scrutinizing the cheques, they found that there were a vast difference between the original cheques they had issued and those presented to the bank.

Classen also said that he was informed by his staff member that their records did not show any payments which were supposed to be made to Obinna.

Classen, like Mabote, also told the Court that the signatures on the cheques belonged to the staff members of BIC but that the payees’ names, dates and values had all been altered.
The said alteration of cheques, he said, had happened on all the four cheques that he was shown by his staff members.

Asked what happened after the realization that a wrong payee had claimed the money, Classen said that the mistake was corrected by the bank paying the right claimants.

Cross examining Classen, Obinna repeated the same questions he had asked Mabote and finally said, again, that he was “a victim of circumstances”.

On the question of how he got possession of the cheques, Pule Kgatlegang, who works as a messenger for a courier company, Africa Express, told the Court that he was, on the 24 of June 2007, collecting mail for the First National Bank around Gaborone and that after collecting from the main branch of the bank, he realized that some of the mail was missing from the container on the motor bike. Kgatlegang said that he then enquired from phone card vendors near where he had parked and was told that they had seen a man collecting the mail from the container.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.