• Saturday, April 13, 2024
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BusinessDay

Why Tunde Lemo, other directors of Titan Bank are wanted by CBN special investigator

The Special investigator appointed by President Bola Tinubu to probe the central bank of Nigeria has summoned the chairman of Titan Bank and former deputy governor of the Central  Bank, Babatunde Lemo for interrogation on Thursday in Abuja.

It is understood that the invitation follows the growing frustration of the special investigator Jim Obaze to lay hands on the illusive owners so they can provide evidence of the source of the $500m used to acquire Union Bank. Obaze and his investigators believe the funds could have come from sacked CBN governor Godwin Emefiele.

The two majority shareholders, Cornelius Vink and Rahul Savara need to answer mounting queries relating to the curious takeover by Titan Bank of Union Bank, one of Nigeria’s oldest financial institutions.

The letter inviting Lemo and others was signed by the Head of Operations, Office of the Special Investigator, Eloho Okpoziakpo, a deputy commissioner of police (DCP) and addressed to Lemo.

According to the summons, “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.

“In the 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 clarify 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 concerning these two shareholders. They were given this opportunity via a letter to them dated 28th 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’.

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

The special investigator has asked that the banks be seized by the federal government and it is now being suggested that the big stick might be wielded should those invited fail to honour the invitation to enable the investigator to unravel other details on the $ 500 million acquisition of Union Bank by Titan Trust Bank (TTB).

A conglomerate, the Tropical General Investment Group (TGI), insisted in newspaper publications on Sunday that the USD 500 million capital used to pay for the transaction did not come from Emefiele.

Obazee and his team of crack detectives alleged that their findings proved otherwise.

In a report to President Tinubu, the Investigator alleged that the two banks were owned and bought by the proxies of the former CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, who has denied the claim.

But attempts by the investigators to interact with the Chairman of TGI, Vink, since August have not succeeded.

TGI said Vink, who has been in Nigeria since 1978, is an elderly person and has recently been medically advised to limit his movement.

The Special Investigator insisted that since TGI assured his team that the two shareholders would “soon” honour the invitation, it was time for them to come for interaction.

In a December 24 letter, the Special Investigator asked Lemo and the two others to appear before his team on Thursday.