Sunday, February 09, 2014 16.21 PM / TheWill / National Daily Newspaper
…MTN used as conduit pipe to deplete Nigeria’s external reserves
Telecoms giant MTN Nigeria has been accused of engaging in large scale money laundering which has helped in not only depleting Nigeria’s Foreign Exchange (Forex) reserves but also has negatively affected the country’s economy over the last five years, National Daily can authoritatively reveal.
Presidency sources who did not want to be mentioned disclosed to this newspaper that an anonymous petition sent to President Goodluck Jonathan by someone who claims to be in the know of the transactions, had triggered what they described as a special investigation into humongous economic sabotage activities embarked upon by the actors. Accordingly, the telecoms company has allegedly since February 7, 2008 engaged in practices that clearly constitute economic sabotage against the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Our sources highlighted that all the transactions were done in collusion with top officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria and that petitions sent to the Central Bank Governor over this fraudulent transfer of funds from Nigeria to safe havens abroad were ignored by the Governor because he has interest to protect.
In the said petition a copy of which National Daily obtained with supporting documents that exposed the monumental act of money laundering, it was noted that MTN Nigeria in concert with Standard Chartered Bank and Stanbic IBTC Bank illegally remitted the sum of USD 936,017,265.89 to the Cayman Island, British Virgin Island and Mauritius. He also explained how MTN fraudulently used 20 copies of forged Certificates of Capital Importation allegedly used by a foreign investors who brought in foreign capital investment on February 7,2008 through Standard Chartered Bank and on February 8,2008 the said Capital had yielded proceeds that were repatriated to the tune of USD936,017,265.89.
The petitioner carefully itemized all the transactions starting with the one made on behalf of N-Cell Limited with office address at Geneva Water Front Drive, British Virgin Islands. This company had the sum of $31,057,339.23 remitted on their behalf to Barclays Private Bank, Hans Crescent, London (account number withheld). The second remittance was made on behalf of SASPV limited located at Port Louis, Mauritius (account number withheld), domiciled at the same Barclays Private Bank London. The next transfer was the sum of $590,574,488.17 made on behalf Of MTN International Mauritius Limited with office address at Suite 525 Barley Wharf, Port Louis Mauritius. Our sources equally provided evidence with account numbers , names of banks and transaction details of other similar numerous transactions made on behalf of MTN Nigeria by Stanbic IBTC and Standard Chartered Bank.
The highlighted that these transactions were funds generated in Nigeria from MTN operations in Nigeria and the sum of $314,420,108.60 being proceeds generated from Nigeria through private placements of MTN shares.
On the role played by both Standard Chartered Bank and Stanbic IBTC in all these, our sources noted that it is disturbing that Stanbic IBTC which facilitated all these illegal transfers had between October, 1, 2007 and May 31, 2009 carried out similar questionable capital repatriation through its invincible transactions for the sum of $7,705,890,581.13 out of Nigeria. This fraudulent transaction was made known to both Central Bank and Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) examiners when they visited Stanbic IBTC in 2009 and 2010 but they did nothing about this huge infringement.
Standard Chartered Bank according to the petition that is said to be giving President Jonathan sleepless nights had in its MTR202 for the period ended May 2009, understated the balance in its Capital Importation Inflows for which Certificate were used to the tune of $314,420,108.60 representing acquisition of MTNs link units by Nigerians for which the Bank issued CCIs. The said inflows were classified as over the counter transactions by IBTC.
The investors and beneficiaries of the CCIs were all nonresident in Nigeria and resides in the following countries, Mauritius, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Island, thus the need for Nigeria Investment Promotion Council registration certificates. These certificates were not provided by IBTC on request. There was no evidence that the CCI’s were transferred to IBTC by Standard Chartered Bank. Stanbic IBTC did not obtain any indemnity from Standard Chattered Bank before transferring the said proceeds to private placements. Stanbic IBTC did not indemnify CBN before embarking on the forex transfer as requested by the forex manual. Moreso, the beneficiaries of these capital repatriation proceeds communicated their bank account details to Stanbic IBTC, same day their respective CCI’s were issued which was on February 7, 2008.
It was discovered that MTN Nigeria had transferred various sums to its shareholders both individuals and organisations, who bought MTN shares through its private offer. Investigation revealed that these sums in some cases represent the actual investments into the telecom giant by these individuals and organisations numbering about 35. They include but not limited to the Oba of Lagos, HRM Oba Rilwan Akiolu (203,500 units of shares for which $5m was illegally transferred to an offshore account for him), Mr. Reginald Ihejiahi of Fidelity Bank (203,500 units of shares for which $5m was illegally transferred to an offshore account for him), Governor-elect of Anambra State Chief Willie Obiano (203,583 units of shares for which $5m was illegally transferred to an offshore account for him), Mrs Olufunke Osibodu (203,500 units of shares for which $5m was illegally transferred to an offshore account for her) and Cherroots Nigeria Ltd (2,035,830 units of shares for which $50m was illegally transferred to an offshore account for it).
FUSL Nominees Ltd got $30m for its 1,221,498 units, Mr. Olusola Adeeyo got $10m for his 407,000 units of shares, Tele SPV Ltd got $20.5m for its 834,690 units, Yoram Ltd ((407,166 units of shares for which $10m was illegally transferred to an offshore account for it), Sterling asset Mgt and Trust Ltd for its 407,166 units got $9,995,920.00, Mr Bismarck J. Rewane for his 203,583 units got $5m, Mr Adebayo Olawale Edun for his 610,500 shares got $15m among others.
It was gathered from some the named shareholders that the said amounts actually represent the value of the shares as at the time of investment but deny receiving such funds in their accounts as payment from MTN. According to some of them, they have received between 10 to 15 per cent dividends from MTN in the last four to five years but denied that it amounted to the amount captured against their names. This is one of the many puzzles that the investigators will need to answer – how did these figures come up against the supposed beneficiaries when in actual fact most of them are not aware of such transfers. Who did these transfers eventually get to?
“It is however believed that between MTN, Stanbic IBTC and CBN, these particulars were simply used to provide for these funds to shipped by the telecom giant out of Nigeria. If this is true, then it means that the funds invested by these individuals and organisations were immediately laundered out of Nigeria, and that without their knowledge. Therefore, MTN Nigeria has been using funds generated from its Nigerian operations to both run the network and pay dividends to supposed shareholders who are not even aware that their funds were never used for the company but laundered abroad,” one of our sources added.
National Daily can also authoritatively reveal that the Presidency will also look into the role of Bureau de Change registered by Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as they were part of this scam. The petitioner expressed assurance that if this issues raised are adequately investigated, Nigerians will be shocked as to the level of rot in the system ,especially how those employed to watch over the nations resources are also colluding with foreign interests to defraud this country by engaging in acts of economic sabotage.
Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has already distanced her ministry from the transactions as there are no corresponding records to date.
Efforts to get an official reaction from the CBN, MTN and Stanbic IBTC proved abortive. Calls text messages to CBN Governor Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Mr. Ugo Okoroafor Director of CBN Corporate Communications, were not returned. After series of calls and text messages to MTN Senior officials, one of them responded with a call and asked that we sent a mail to the relevant head of corporate communications for an official response, which we promptly did. But as at the time of going to the press no response was received.
Presidency sources told this newspaper that a thorough investigation has been ordered into the allegations.