Home Nigeria Union Bank: Special Investigator to grill ex-CBN dep. gov. Tunde Lemo, others

Union Bank: Special Investigator to grill ex-CBN dep. gov. Tunde Lemo, others

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Pmnewsnigeria.com

The Special Investigator appointed by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to probe the activities of the Central Bank of Nigeria and related entities, Jim Obazee has given the purported buyers of Union Bank of Nigeria, UBN another opportunity to prove that they duly paid for and followed due process in their acquisition of the financial institution.

Titan Trust Bank, TTB with Mr Tunde Lemo, a former deputy governor of CBN as the Chairman and Mr. Cornelius Vink and Mr. Raul Savara as the leading shareholders had acquired the bank with the approval of the CBN under the leadership of its now embattled former governor, Godwin Emefiele.

Tropical General Investment Group (TGI) a conglomerate led by Savara allegedly provided USD500 million for the acquisition of the majority share in the bank.

However, Obazee , in a report to President Bola Tinubu about a week ago said his findings revealed that Emefiele bought the bank through proxies using a web of financial shenanigans to conceal the deal.

The Special Investigator said he reached the conclusion following the failure of Mr Cornelius Vink and Mr. Raul Savara to honour his invitation to provide the documents requested to prove that their acquisition of the bank followed due process.

The Special Investigator had in the letter dated 28 August 2023 to the management of UBN requested details of the registration, ownership, shareholding structure, profile, particulars of directors and related entities of the two entities used as vehicles for acquisition of the financial institution,  the licensing of Titan Trust Bank and the acquisition of controlling shareholding of Union Bank of Nigeria by these entities, proof of funds as well as internationally verifiable Bank Statements (from incorporation of the entities to date).

The Special Investigator in the letter sent to the CEO of UBN also requested information on the shareholder that gave interest-free loans to the two entities separately(names, nationality, source of the fund, proof of such funds, bank statements as well as the relationship of the entities with Mr. Andrew Chukwudi Ojei; Jerome Olagunju Shogbon, Rahul Savara, Winston Odeh, Adaeze Udensi, Ekene Samuel Louis, Godwin Emefiele, Macombo Omoile, Tunde Lemo, Mudassir Amry, Faruk Gumel, Oluremi Oni,Vink Corporation Middle East FCZ(together with the details of the shareholder that also gave Vink Corporation interest-free loan) and your good self.

He also requested details of how Trust receipts (from Standard Chartered Bank), Zenith Nigeria Plc and Zenith Bank (UK) was involved in the entire arrangement, minutes of the Board meetings, copy of the audited financial statements and Management Letter that arose from the Audit of the financial statements of the two entities listed in (1) above as well as those of TTB and UBN from 2018 to date, details of any forbearance received from the Central Bank of Nigeria for UBN (before acquisition by TTB) and why.

“Should you not know, please come along with anyone who knows about if (with evidence), details of the loan capital l from Afrexim Bank (Egypt), collaterals thereto and the involvement of the CBN in the entire arrangement, any Foreign Exchange dealings that transacted with the CBN as retail or wholesale of facilitator with TGI, TTB, UBN, Luxis. Magna and other related entities: no matter how remotely connected as well as any other document(s) that can assist in arriving at an informed decision on the investigation of TTB, UBN, CBN and any person(s) of interest in the entire arrangement,”  the letter partly reads.

The CEO of UBN  was mandated in the letter to bring the documents and come with Mr. Rahul Savara (in person) for a meeting with the Special Investigator Friday, 1st September 2023 for interaction in connection with this investigation.

Though the bank said the time given to respond to the request was short, it however promised to provide the documents and that “Messrs. Vink and Savara will be available for the meeting as soon as they are in Nigeria.”

However, in a letter on September 1st, 2023 letter to the Special Investigator by the Company Secretary of the Union Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Somuyiwa Sonubi, UBN said due to Vink’s medical condition, he was unable to make the appointment as proposed.

In his report to the President, the Special Investigator said he has been unable to interact with Vink since August while raising querries on the purported acquisition of the UBN by TGI and TTB.

He also alleged that the two entities were fronts used by Emefiele to acquire the UBN.

However, following the publication of the excerpts of the report last weekend, Lemo had in a press statement asserted that the TGN and the TGI acquisition followed due process with all the necessary payments made.

The former CBN Governor said in the refutal that Cornelius Vink and Rahul Savara  are prominent global entrepreneurs who had also operated thriving businesses in Nigeria for many years.

He had also suggested that both of them should be invited to provide clarification on their share ownership and given seven days to make such clarification; failure which they should forfeit their shares to the Federal Government of Nigeria in an e-mail to the Special Investigator.

The TGI had also insisted that it paid the USD500 million as the majority owner of Titan Trust to acquire Union Bank.

However, the Special Investigator said he was surprised by the request by Lemo because the TGI team failed to take advantage of the opportunity to prove its case via a letter to them dated 28h August 2023.

“Instead of honouring the invitation and providing the requested documents, we received a letter from the Company Secretary of Union Bank, Somuyiwa Sonubi, dated 15 September 2023, informing the Special Investigator that Mr. Cornelius Vink was out of the country on medical grounds and that both

“Messrs Vink and Savara will be available for the meeting as soon as they are in Nigeria which will be soon,”  said the Special Investigator. “Up until this offensive defence that you put in the public domain, the Special Investigator has neither heard from them nor received the requested documents.”

However, Obazee said Lemo and other shareholders will be given the opportunity of proving their case on Thursday,  28th December, 2023 in a December 24th, 2023 letter.

The Special Investigator asked Lemo and two others to appear before his team on Thursday.

The Special Investigator said if Vink and Savara refused to honour the committee’s investigation, they may lose their shares in the Titan Trust Bank and the Union Bank to the FG.

The letter added: “Accordingly, you are hereby invited to come along with Messrs Cornelius Vink and Mr. Rahul Savara to meet with the team of Special Investigators by 2pm on 28th December, 2023 at the Department of Force Intelligence, opposite Nigeria Police Force Headquarters, Shehu Shagari Way, Area 11, Abuja without fail or excuse.

The letter, which was addressed to Lemo, reads in part: “Please refer to your discussion with the Special Investigator earlier today regarding the offensive defence that your good self-issued in Punch newspapers, on behalf of TTB which you chair, as well as the email you sent to the Special Investigator today wherein you tried to provide clarification on your reaction to the report on TTB.

“The defence seems contrary to the statements, made under caution, by the persons connected with these transactions, including your good self, before the Special Investigator at the Department of State Service (DSS) in August 2023.

“In the said newspapers, you referred to both Cornelius Vink and Rahul Savara as “prominent global entrepreneurs and having thriving businesses in Nigeria…”. In your email as well as your earlier discussion with the Special Investigator, you suggested that both of them be invited to provide clarification on their share ownership and given seven days to make such clarification; failure which they will forfeit their shares to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

“We are surprised at your request with regard to these two shareholders. They were given this opportunity via a letter to them dated 28h August 2023.

“Instead of honouring the invitation and providing the requested documents, we received a letter from the Company Secretary of Union Bank, Somuyiwa Sonubi, dated 15 September 2023, informing the Special Investigator that Mr. Cornelius Vink was out of the country on medical grounds and that both “Messrs Vink and Savara will be available for the meeting as soon as they are in Nigeria which will be soon”.

“Up until this offensive defence that you put in the public domain, the Special Investigator has neither heard from them nor received the requested documents.”

“Accordingly, you are hereby invited to come along with Messrs Cornelius Vink and Mr. Rahul Savara to meet with the team of Special Investigators by 2pm on 28th December  2023 at the Department of Force Intelligence, opposite Nigeria Police Force Headquarters, Shehu Shagari Way, Area 11, Abuja without fail or excuse.

“Please inform them to come along with all the documents /information requested from them by the letter to Mr. Cornelius Vink dated 28” August 2023.

“You will also be required to make additional statements to your earlier statement on that day.”

“Kindly note that if Messrs Cornelius Vink and Rahul Savara refuse to attend this meeting and provide/defend the requested documents /information, it will be construed that they have decided to forfeit the purported shareholdings in TTB and Union Bank of Nigeria, irrespective of which vehicle that they are using to own the purported shares.

“Should you also refuse to attend the meeting to provide additional statement to your earlier statement made in August 2023, it will be construed that you misled the Nigerian public with your reaction in the Punch Newspapers today which has gained wide publicity in both electronic and print media.

“This invitation is to further ensure that it is beyond reasonable doubt that the Federal Government of Nigeria has given you a fair hearing. Accept the assurances of the utmost regards of the Special investigator.”

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