Businessman found not guilty of taking Saudi company's money
A JUDGE has found Springfield Lakes IT company operator Anthony Onyeka Okeke not guilty of two charges of fraud alleged to have been committed against an Australian company supplying communications equipment to military border guards in Saudi Arabia.
"Thank you," Okeke said to Judge Alexander Horneman-Wren SC, when he delivered his not guilty verdict after a two-day, judge-alone trial.
Mr Okeke, 34, a Nigerian national living in Springfield Lakes, runs Compu-Service-X Pty Ltd.
Mr Okeke pleaded not guilty that he dishonestly induced Naif Al Ajmi to deliver banking credits to him of more than $30,000 between May 10-31, 2017 at Springfield Lakes; and dishonestly gained a benefit/advantage and the yield to Anthony Okeke was to the value of more than $30,000.
The court heard the case involved about $72,295 being paid into a Commonwealth bank account that was operated by Compu-Service-X Pty Ltd of which Mr Okeke was the only known director and share holder.
The money had been transferred by Saudi Arabian based company Arabian Talent Co.
The court heard its intended destination was the bank account of Barrett Communications - a Perth company that manufactures communications equipment and contracted to supply border guards in Saudi Arabia.
Crown prosecutor Victoria Adams said $57,000 was transferred soon after from this account to a business account also operated by Compu-Service-X.
The Crown alleged it was Mr Okeke who later made six withdrawals from Commonwealth branches or ATMs for cash amounts of $13,000, $14,000, $9,500 and $6000.
Arabian Talent Co boss Naif Al Ajmi sent the payment to what he believed to be a new bank account for Barrett Communications.
In an video-link with Saudi Arabia, Mr Al Ajmi told the court he received emails purporting to be from Martin Johnson, the business development manager with Barrett Communications.
The email supplied new bank account details for the Perth company, to which he then sent final payment for the communications equipment.
"I had not realised the email (address name) had changed," he said.
Police investigated after the money was not received and Mr Johnson made a formal complaint.
Investigations revealed the money was sent by Mr Ajmi but ended up being paid into the company account of the Queensland based Compu-Service-X.
In his evidence Mr Johnson revealed differences in emails that Mr Al Ajmi received supposedly from his company about a new bank account, including a different email address.
"We supply equipment to the Saudi Arabian border guard," Mr Johnson said.
"Three orders were placed. We receive 50% payment upfront then we ship."
Mr Johnson said the second half of payment was never received.
"Are these the bank details of your company," queried Ms Adams.
"No they are not," he said - referring to the changed account number sent by someone (falsely using his name) to Mr Ajmi.
Mr Johnson said he was not aware of anything strange at the time, and had no knowledge of Compu-Service-X.
"We didn't get our money. I was confused," he said.
"Naif said they sent the money. I met with him in the United Arab Emirates sometime later and that's when we discovered the difference in the emails.
"An email had a false address and the information was not our bank account.
"I started following it up with the police in Australia."
Cross-examined by defence barrister Scott Neaves, Mr Johnson said Barrett Communications had about 50 employees.
He said the special company stamp used on its emails (and on the allegedly fraudulent email) was only able to be accessed by himself, the CEO, and another salesman.
The email at the centre of the case spoke about a change of bank account details saying to "kindly delete our account details and get back to us to send new account details."
Min Young Lee, a Commonwealth Bank law enforcement agency specialist was taken though various bank documents by Ms Adams and confirmed that money had gone into the account operated by Compu-Services -X and was from Arabian Talents Co and had first landed in a foreign currency account.
Then $57,00 was transferred into the business transaction account operated by Compu-Services-X.
Ms Lee confirmed cash withdrawals were later made from various Commonwealth bank branches or ATMs in Brisbane, Springfield, Forest Lake and Acacia Ridge by someone using a debit card.
Mr Neaves said that with the revelation there was no evidence from the Crown as to who had been responsible for the money transfer between accounts or cash withdrawal, there was no evidence to show that it was in fact Mr Okeke. Or that he sent the email (regarding change of account details) or caused it to be sent.
"There is no evidence my client is the person responsible for the transactions," Mr Neaves said in making his defence submission that there was no case for Mr Okeke to answer.
"In my submission there is no evidence that the transactions provided a yield to Mr Okeke, or a monetary benefit to Mr Okeke personally."
The court also heard that the police investigation had not gone as far as to link a network computer IP address to Mr Okeke with regard to the relevant emails.
The narrow parameters of the charges had also been mentioned in court discussion, and that the two accounts belonged to a corporate entity.
Judge Horneman-Wren found that Mr Okeke had no case to answer on either of the charges and ruled that he was not guilty.
He said allegations pertaining to the wording of the charges could not be proven before the court.
This included the allegation that Mr Okeke personally gained a monetary benefit from the money which had gone into a company account.
Mr Okeke remains in custody and is yet to face a series of unrelated charges in Ipswich Magistrates Court.