Access Bank clears the air on metal billet allegations

Following publications in some media on charges filed against Access Bank by the Special Fraud Unit (SFU) of the Nigeria Police Force, the tier-1 lender has refuted allegations of conspiracy and theft of metal billets said to belong to BMCE Bank International whilst explaining its side of the story in a release sent to the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), Monday.

Last week, some publications across several media platforms stated that Herbert Wigwe, CEO of the Access Bank, and other named individuals were to stand trial before an Ogun State high court for the N2.5 billion fraud over the sales of some metal billets.

However, Access Bank in the release to the NSE maintained that it financed the importation of the billets and that the Receiver/ Manager it appointed and a syndicate of lenders had the right to sell the goods.

In the statement, the Bank insisted that ‘’ at no time did the Bank or any of its executives or officers commit any of the alleged offenses’’.

According to Access Bank, Metal Africa Steel Products Limited in 2015 was granted credit facilities to finance the importation of billets and machinery for expansion of the manufacturer’s factory.

The Bank said it opened Form M and Letters of Credit, consequent upon granting the credit, in order to facilitate the importation of the billets for which the shipping documents were consigned to the bank.

The credit facilities were secured by a Debenture Trust Deed over the assets of Metal Africa Steel Products shared with other lenders.

Access Bank in the statement said that it released the shipping document to Metal Africa Steel Products upon arrival of the billets so the goods could be cleared but discovered thereafter that Metal Africa Steel Products ‘’had cleared the goods from the port without payments of appropriate customs duty’’

Bound by its duty to protect its depositor’s fund, Access Bank said it reported the alleged crime to SFU and was authorised by a court order to take over Metal Africa Steel Product’s operations.

The Bank further stated that it petitioned Interpol which is making efforts presently to repatriate from India, suspects in the alleged fraud.

Access Bank explained that under the Debenture Trust Deed, it as well as the beneficiary banks appointed a Receiver/Manager to take over operations of the manufacturers business and paid the appropriate customs Duty on the billets.

The Receiver/Manager subsequently obtained a court order from the Federal High Court, sold the billets and distributed the proceeds among Access Bank and the beneficiary banks.

The tier-1 bank expressed that it was aware that BCME Bank International also laid claim to the same billet and that there were unsuccessful attempts to settle between the Receiver and BCME Bank International, the petitioner, which led to BCME Bank filing a complaint with the SFU.

In response to the recent development, Access Bank stated the charges of fraudulence and theft brought against it is surprising and untrue.

Access Bank said that it is both aware that there are civil matters in court on the subject matter and on-going settlement negotiations between the Receiver and BCME Bank International, assuring stakeholders of its continued commitment to safeguarding depositors’ fund.

Shares of Access Bank gained 0.83 percent in the Monday’s trading as the Banking index and NSE All-Share index declined by 2.87 percent and 0.90 percent respectively.



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