Wanted ex-bank boss returns to Nigeria: graft agency

LAGOS Wed Aug 4, 2010 5:39am EDT

LAGOS (Reuters) - A former Nigerian bank chief who has been wanted for a year to face graft charges following a $4 billion bailout has returned home from the United Kingdom, the country's anti-corruption agency said on Wednesday.

Erastus Akingbola, former chief executive of Intercontinental Bank, 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.

"He is back in the country but he has not turned up to see us yet," EFCC spokesman Femi Babafemi said, adding that officers from the agency would track him down if he failed to report himself voluntarily.

Nigeria's This Day newspaper quoted a family source as saying Akingbola denies all allegations of wrongdoing.

"Akingbola's voluntary return to the country is to defend himself against all allegations against him in the law courts," the source said.

"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.

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 capitalized 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 totaling 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.

(Editing by Giles Elgood)

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