Okogbule recounted how the portfolio investors obtained an unsecured loan of N6 billion from Diamond Bank in 2007, a sum he alleged the bank helped the expatriates to launderto the UK.
United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) “can neither confirm nor deny” its interest in a N6 billion alleged fraud case in which Allan Dick West Africa (ADWA) Limited allegedly made away with the unsecured loan granted by Diamond Bank.
ADWA has since been liquidated.
Joint liquidators of the UK firm, Akinwunmi & Busari and Ihegwoazu & Co, had set aside N200 million from the N750 million MTN Nigeria paid to settle debts ADWA owed local contractors.
The liquidators said they would use the money to prosecute the case in the UK against the parent company, Allan Dick Company (ADC) Limited, UK.
But the principal partners of the two law firms, Akinwunmi and Ihegwoazu, disclosed in an exclusive interview that the cost of prosecuting the case is more than the budgeted N200 million.
They said they opted to work with the SFO,the equivalent in Nigeria of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
But an SFO official TheNiche contacted said she could not confirm if the SFO has any interest in the case, even though the Nigerian lawyers claimed they had solicited the assistance of the crime buster.
An email sent to Nilima Fox, SFO Head of Media Department, read: “Joint liquidators of Allan Dick West Africa, Akinwunmi&Busari and Ihegwoazu& Co, both legal practitioners in Nigeria, said they have since applied to your office for assistance to bring the suspects to book.
“Please kindly oblige us with information on the progress you have made in your investigation. We request for facts, figures and statements on the case. Or is the case closed?”
Fox quickly replied that he was out of the office and advised that his colleague in the SFO press office, Susan Givens, be contacted.
Eventually, however, it was Jina Roe who responded to the enquiry. She wrote: “Without wishing to be unhelpful, I can neither confirm nor deny SFO interest in this matter.”
TheNiche pressed for precise information on the cross border transaction in which the UK firm allegedly transferred huge sums of money into personal and corporate accounts at a time it claimed to be insolvent.
The SFO replied, “We have no further comment.”
The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, West and Gate (W&G) Limited, Paul Okogbule, and other local contractors affected by the case decided on a legal action against Akinwunmi&Busari and Ihegwoazu& Co, Diamond Bank, and all those on the other side of the matter.
A letter written to ADWA’s liquidators, Akinwunmi and Ihegwoazu, by Citi Lawyers (solicitors to West and Gate and the contractors of Allan Dick), demanded a refund of N200 million to the local subcontractors of ADWA.
Another letter to Diamond Bank also demanded a refund of N150 million to the subcontractors.
Both letters are dated December 19, 2013.
They demanded a refund of N200 million “illegally deducted by yourself and Mr. Victor Ihekweazu of the firm of Akinwunmi & Busari and Ihekweazu and Co respectively from the amount paid by MTN to our clients.
“Your failure to comply with the above demand within seven clear days of your receipt of this letter will leave us with the option of taking the appropriate legal steps in a competent court of law.”
The letter to Diamond Bank demanded a refund of N150 million “illegally deducted by your bank officials from the amount paid by MTN to our clients.
“Your bank’s failure to comply with the above demand within seven clear days of your receipt of this letter will leave us with the options of forwarding our petitions to the appropriate authorities and instituting legal action in a competent court of law.”
The contractors detailed how Diamond Bank lost N6 billion to ADWA, a telecommunications services firm promoted by ADC, its parent company in the UK.
Okogbule recounted in Lagos how the portfolio investors obtained an unsecured loan of N6 billion from Diamond Bank in 2007, a sum he alleged the bank helped the expatriates to launder to the UK.
ADWA commenced liquidation without repaying the loan and paying contractors who worked on MTN base stations.
The contractors alleged that Diamond Bank and its appointed liquidators short-changed the subcontractors that executed the work, paying them about N4 million each regardless of what they were owed.
The contractors alleged that contrary to bank rules, Diamond Bank, instead of going after its N6 billion loan, took a lion share from N850 million MTN paid to the local subcontractors of ADWA.
They alleged that the bank did this after it claimed to have written off the loan or sold it to the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).
Investigation showed that the liquidators of ADC paid N150 million dividend to Diamond Bank.
During the banking industry audit in 2009, Diamond Bank had concealed the unsecured loan from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and as a result failed to sell same to AMCON.
Diamond Bank’s last financial result does not state that it wrote the loan off or sold it to AMCON in the wake of reforms initiated by suspended Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)Governor Lamido Sanusi.
Also, the financial results of Diamond Bank for 2011 and 2012 do not report the recovery of the N150 million.
Despite appropriating N200 million of the N750 million MTN paid, the liquidators of ADWA did not take legal action against ADC in the UK.
The liquidators, who met in April last year with the creditors of ADWA, said in an interview that they could not initiate legal proceedings in the UK against British directors of ADC because it would cost huge sums of money.
But Okogbule, whose contract is worth over N17 million, countered that Diamond Bank may have decided to let sleeping dogs lie, having lost interest in the recovery of the loan.
He disclosed that two of the local contractors have died as a result of their inability to repay loans used to execute the contracts for MTN on behalf of ADWA.
Efforts to get Diamond Bank to respond to inquiries yielded no result.
The bank said after a meeting between journalists and its corporate communication executives and media consultants, TPT,that it would give an official response.
It is yet to do so.
When contacted, MTN General Manager (Corporate Affairs), Olufunmilayo Onajide, explained that the Allan Dick transaction ended up in a Lagos high court where the suit between the company’s liquidators and MTN was decided.
@ The Niche.