Olusola Saraki Under Probe By NDLEA, CBN


 

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Tempo (Lagos)

March 20, 2003
Posted to the web March 25, 2003

Rotimi Sulyman
Lagos

An alleged shady deal between Societe Generale Bank (SGBN) and its chairman, Dr. Olusola Saraki, and the bank's other 11 shareholders have landed them in the dock of the NDLEA..

This indeed is a very challenging season for the Kwara 'king-maker', Dr. Olusola Saraki. On the political front, the man is almost as embattled as Saddam Hussein, whom the pugilist American president Bush wants to send to the land of the dinossaurs. The Saraki dynasty is fighting the battle of its life trying to dislodge the political son (turned-political-foe) Governor Lawal of Kwara State. Now, again, TEMPO has learnt, Saraki is being investigated by the NDLEA for alleged money laundering.

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And he is not being investigated alone. His wife Florence and other 10 shareholders of the Societe Generale Bank Limited (SGBN) are involved. So also is the bank itself, whose chairman is the same kingpin of Kwara politics -Saraki.

The other 10 personalities include Chief Olawale Ige, a former communications minister, Mr. Isiaka Ayinde, Dr. Ade Thomas and Chief Ebun Aderibigbe. The story is that, late last year, the 12 individuals bought shares (rights issues) worth about half a billion naira from the same SGBN with the amount considered fraudulently sourced, illegally transferred and immorally deposited.

TEMPO gathered that the SGBN is at the centre of the alleged fraud that runs into N416.658 million, but it was perpetuated in connivance with Stockland company Limited, Carlisle Properties and Investment company Limited, Kamalia Nigeria Limited, Societe Generale Bank Limited,NBM Bank, Ecobank, Equatorial Trust Bank, Platinum Bank, Trans International Bank and Accord Savings and Loan. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) blew the lid on the fast game.

SGBN is said to have sold shares running into N146.658 million to its directors and major shareholders in a major recapitalisation move mid last year.Though the sale of the shares was hush-hush and wrapped in secrecy, it is said to be permissible in the financial world. In fact, it is called Right Issue. Saraki and his co-travellers, however ran foul of Banking and other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA) by allegedly using depositors' fund to buy the shares. The CBN is worried that Saraki and others did not pay from their own purse. They, instead, dipped their hands in their customers, deposits.

Information available to this magazine adds that the transactions were conducted in a very dramatic manner. The amounts withdrawn were said to have been taken to six banks in SGBN bullion vans. The banks were NBM (Marina branch), Ecobank (Broad Street), Equitorial Trust Bank (Victoria Island corporate branch), Platinum Bank (Head Office branch) and Accord Savings and Loans Limited. For instance, while Saraki was allegedly stage-managed to have withdrawn N83, 155,294, his wife withdrew N53, 293,625. Others had "withdrawn" about N300 million for SGBN's branch at Broad Street, Lagos.

But the snag, according to a report, is this: "In most of the cases, the shareholders do not have accounts in the branch where teh from withdrawal were made affected banks". What happened was that a few days before the days the monies were obtained (in cheques), the SGBN had used its bullion to transport the money to the banks. The shareholders all, paid on counter, and it was in exchange for the amounts that the shareholders were able to issue manager's cheques to the SGBN on their behalf.

As soon as the apex bank got wind of the deal, it swung into investigative actions. While it discovered that Platinum and Trans International bank, which issued manager's cheque from the account of Accord Savings acted on the instruction of their customer, the other banks "have revealed serious lapses in internal controls, making these banks vulnerable to fraud that could put depositors' funds in jeopardy".

For the main player, SGBN, the CBN was interested in unravelling from which of its vaults the about half a billion naira came from in June 2002. There were indications that the amount was withdrawn from the SGBN Broad Street's branch. Yet, more piqued were the investigators when they learnt that none of Saraki and the other 11 disciples had an account with the branch.

"At the branches", a source says "we perused the treasury book and traced each entry in the months of May and June to the underlying source documents (voucher/tickets, tellers evidencing cash lodgments at the CBN etc). There was no indication to suggest that cash was withdrawn from the bank to fund the rights issue. However, the bank was unable to provide documentary evidence to substantiate the nature of the transactions for the sum of N433.328 million withdrawals made from its Broad Street branch as follows:

¨ Treasury-out (Cash withdrawal) on 31/5/2002 N140 million

¨ Treasury-out (Cash withdrawal) on 3/6/2002 N43.328 million

¨ Treasury-out (Cash withdrawal) on 24/6/2002 N250 million

433.328 million

"Given the fact that the recapitalisation amount involved is N416.658 million and was made through cash over the counter during this period, the bank would be prevailed upon to provide satisfactory documentary evidence to substantiate the purposes for which the above withdrawals (N433.328 million) were made.

On request to scrutinise the accounts maintained by its major shareholders and directors with the bank, SGBN confirmed to the CBN that none of its directors or major shareholders had account with the bank. It even obtained a written affirmation to this effect. A check at the bank's OBR 1650 equally indicated that the bank has consistently reported a nil insider related credit.

All SGBN's shareholders and directors have no account in the bank convinced that Saraki and others bought the shares with depositor's fund, CBN declared it null and void and cancelled it. Efforts by the Deputy General Manager (operations) of SGBN, Mr. Dele Iluyomade to defend and whitewash the dirty deal opens another chapter.

He was said to have told CBN that all the twelve shareholders bought in foreign currencies and exchanged them in black markets.

Rather than falling for the story -hook, line and sinker, CBN authorities consider the defence more incriminating.

For one, there is a laid-down rule by CBN that any foreign transaction that is in excess of N500, 000 must be reported to the apex bank. This provision is put in place to check and curb money-laundering. Although conversant with this provision, the twelve shareholders and seven banks, contravened the law by not bringing all these money that are miles above N500, 000 to the knowledge of CBN.

The bankers' bank wielded the small stick. They fined six of the seven banks N1 million each for their ignominious roles.

TEMPO investigations reveal that CBN is poised to pursue the case to a logical conclusion. The lender of the resort was said to have directed National Drug Law Enforcement Agency to look into the case, as it may be a case of money-laundering.

In fact, the NDLEA men are said to be neck-deep on the investigation. Efforts made by TEMPO to get the side of the banks and individuals involved in the alleged fraud and money-laundering were frustrated as they all or their lieutenants gave evasive answers.

They took the money from SGBN to the bank obtain manager's cheque And tell the banks to pay SGBN.

SUMMARY OF THE CASH/BANK CHEQUES TRANSACTIONS BETWEEN SGBN AND OTHER BANKS AND ONE OTHER FINANCIAL INSTITUTION

1. Dr. Sola Saraki, NBM Bank Marina Street Branch: Bank cheque No. 00009616 for N30,150,000; Cheque No. 00009617 for N25,002,632 Cheque No. 00000618 for N25,002,632; All three cheques dated 21/06/2002 payees -SGBN The three cheques totaling N71, 304,632 were obtained in exchange for cash.

2. Chief (Mrs.) F. M. Saraki NBM Bank Marina Branch: Cheque No. 00009624 for N27, 200,000; Cheque No. 00009625. Both cheques dated 25/06/2002 Payee-SGBN. The call account from which the cheques were issued was managed by Mr. Abiodun of SGBN and was opened on 30/05/2002 with a cash deposit of N35 million. Other cash lodgments into this account were as follows: 31/05/2002 N16,982,200; 21/06/2002 N30 million; 21/06/2002 N10 million; 24/06/2002 N13, 290,000. Total cash lodgment amounted to N105,272,200

3. Isiaka Ayinde: NBM Bank Marina Branch Cheque No. 00006161 dated 31/05/2002 for N51,982.176 Payee-SGBN The Bank cheque was issued from the same account mentioned in (2) above.

4. Chief Olawale Ige: Trans International Bank Ikeja Branch, Cheque No. 00140180 dated for N38,064,159 Payee SGBN The cheque was funded from a cash lodgment on 03/06/2002 of N37.9 million into the account of Accord Savings and Loans Limited with the bank.



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