Forex scandal: EFCC combs Dangote HQ for documents, probes 51 firms

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    punchng.com

    Operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Thursday stormed the headquarters of Dangote Industries Limited in Ikoyi, Lagos, in furtherance of the ongoing investigation into the alleged abuse of the foreign exchange allocations by the immediate past Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele.

    The anti-graft commission is probing the alleged preferential allocations of forex to the Dangote Group owned by billionaire Aliko Dangote and 51 other companies under the Emefiele-led CBN.

    Two senior officials of the EFCC confirmed the presence of the anti-graft operatives at the Dangote but declined to speak on the reason for their presence.

    One of the officials said, “I can confirm that our men are there, but I can’t comment on the reason for their presence there.”

    Sources said the anti-graft commission had earlier written to the 52 companies directing them to provide documents supporting the allocation and utilisation of foreign exchange sold to them at official rates in the last 10 years.

    The EFCC had asked the firms to submit Form A and Form M which detailed the forex allocations to them between 2014 and June 2023.

    But while some companies complied with the directive, several others were said to have asked for time to get the proper documents.

    Until June 2023, Nigeria operated multiple exchange rates which economists said contributed to the distortions in forex allocation, market volatility, and fluctuations.

    The policy was blamed for the inflationary pressures on the naira and the thriving black market activities which were said to have undermined the effectiveness of the CBN monetary policies.

    The surprise operation at the Dangote headquarters which was carried out by the EFCC detectives during working hours shocked the staff and jolted the visitors to the building.

    The PUNCH reports that the search commenced at about 3pm and lasted for several hours.

    During the raid, the operatives ransacked offices and carted away several financial documents related to forex allocations to the group from 2014 to June 2023, when Emefiele was suspended from office by President Bola Tinubu.

    The PUNCH could not immediately confirm if any of the company officials were arrested by the commission.

    This newspaper had reported that the Special Investigator on the CBN and Related Entities, Jim Obazee, uncovered how Emefiele allegedly lodged public funds in foreign currencies in no fewer than 593 bank accounts in the United States, United Kingdom, and China without the approval of the apex bank’s board of directors and the CBN Investment Committee.

    CBN probe

    Obazee found that the ex-CBN governor allegedly lodged £543, 482,213 in fixed deposits in UK banks without authorisation, adding that he allegedly manipulated the naira exchange rate and committed fraud in the e-Naira project.

    The investigator in a report submitted to the President on December 20, 2023, recommended that Emefiele, who is being prosecuted for alleged N1.2bn procurement fraud, should face fresh charges over the handling of the CBN naira redesign policy and alleged illegal issuance of currency under section 19 of the CBN Act.

    He also recommended that the ex-CBN governor should be prosecuted alongside Tunde Sabiu, a former aide and nephew to former President Muhammadu Buhari, and 12 top directors of the CBN.

    Emefiele denied the indictments, describing the content of Obazee’s investigation report as “false, misleading, and calculated to disparage my person, injure my character, and serve the selfish interest of the private investigator.”

    A top EFCC official revealed that the EFCC was probing the preferential foreign exchange allocations allegedly made by Emefiele in defiance of extant financial rules and regulations and the CBN Act.

    The official claimed, “The EFCC is investigating the Dangote Group over the preferential foreign exchange allocations made by the former CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele in defiance of extant financial rules and regulations and in disregard to the CBN Act.

    “There are about 51 other big companies under probe over the development too, and the commission discovered that the allocations were not approved by the former President Muhammadu Buhari, so it was more of a means for the former CBN governor and his cronies to launder money through forex and Bureau De Change operators.”

    When contacted the spokesman for the EFCC, Dele Oyewale, declined comment on the raid on the Dangote headquarters.

    Dangote Industries’ spokesperson, Sunday Esan, did not respond to phone calls or WhatsApp messages sent to him.

    Two other officials in the communications department of the company, Anthony Chiejina and Francis Browne, have yet to respond to calls and messages sent to them as of the time of filing this report.

    Firm honours invitation

    But a Dangote official claimed the firm had honoured the EFCC’s request and wondered why the commission chose to embarrass them.

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    He noted, “We don’t know why they (EFCC officials) came to our office again; we had earlier been invited to the office of the EFCC. As such, the Dangote officials took along all the documents and submitted them. We don’t know why they eventually decided to visit out office again.

    “The question we are asking is what did they come to take from our office when we had honoured their invitation? They left with empty hands because all the documents they wanted from us had been taken to them. The same EFCC that came to our office is the one giving information to the media that they are investigating us.’’

    Before the latest development, Dangote Industries had in November 2023 refuted allegations that it was involved in forex malpractices and money laundering involving a staggering $3.4bn allegedly facilitated by Emefiele.

    The conglomerate, a mainstay in Nigeria’s industrial landscape and a significant player in the African economy, denied the claims that the money was funnelled to its non-Nigerian subsidiaries, prompting illicit financial flows and round-tripping.

    It said a rival business group sponsored the allegation

    In its rebuttal, Dangote Industries referred to past approvals granted by the CBN between 2010 to 2018, allowing it to purchase forex totalling $3.755bn for funding of its projects across Africa, of which only 47.70 per cent was utilised.

    The company underscored that forex for its investment undertakings was sourced from the interbank market, with all transactions supported by Letters of Credit in line with international standards.

    Commenting on the probe, the Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre, Musa Rafsanjani, said the search of the anti-graft agency at the headquarters of Dangote could be part of an assessment on the previous administration, adding that the EFCC should be allowed to do its job.

    “I think for me, let the EFCC do its work. We all know that there are several problems that have to do with our financial institutions. Some people used their connections to probably circumvent the process

    “I do not think there should be any problem. This might be a routine check to see how the former regime has conducted itself, whether it has followed the due process or it has not followed the due process.’’

    The EFCC operation was happening as South African billionaire Johann Rupert surpassed Aliko Dangote to become Africa’s wealthiest person, as reported by Forbes Real-Time Billionaires.

    Forbes Real-Time Billionaires, a platform tracking daily changes in net worth among high-net-worth individuals globally, revealed that Dangote slid to the second position after experiencing a reduction in wealth from $13.5bn in 2023 to $9.7bn as of January 4, 2024, marking a $3.8bn loss.

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