CBN Special Investigator Summons Titan Trust MD, Major Shareholders Over Acquisition Of Union Bank

CBN Special Investigator Summons Titan Trust MD, Major Shareholders Over Acquisition Of Union Bank

The special investigator panel on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and related entities has summoned Babatunde Lemo, chairman of Titan Trust Bank (TTB), over the institution’s acquisition of Union Bank of Nigeria (UBN).

In a letter dated December 24, 2023, and signed by Eloho Okpoziakpo, head of operations at the office of the special investigator team, Cornelius Vink and Rahul Savara, the major shareholders in TTB, were also invited.

The letter, addressed to Lemo by Jim Obazee, head of the special investigator team, said the invited officials must present themselves by 2 pm on December 28, 2023, to the Department of Force Intelligence (DFI).

The panel’s recent report had disclosed how Godwin Emefiele, the former CBN governor, allegedly used two Dubai-based companies (Luxis International and Magna International) to set up Titan Trust Bank (TTB) as proxies for the acquisition of UBN.

Denying the claims, TTB said the transaction followed due process and met all regulatory requirements, including that of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the CBN.

OFFENSIVE DEFENCE

But emphasising its findings, the probe panel labelled the bank’s rebuttal as an “offensive defence”.

Following TTB’s denial, the special investigator team said Lemo discussed with Obazee as well as sent an email “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,” the letter reads.

According to a letter dated August 28, 2023, addressed to Vink, UBN’s managing director (MD), and TTB’s MD, the special investigator team had requested requisite documents regarding the two Dubai-based companies.

The panel further said details of the companies should include documentation “that led to the licensing of Titan Trust Bank and the acquisition of controlling shareholding of Union Bank of Nigeria by these entities”.

The panel also requested the companies’ proof of funds, internationally verifiable bank statements (from incorporation of the entities to date), and the shareholder that gave interest-free loans to the two entities separately (names, nationality, source of the fund, proof of such funds, bank statements).

Also, the special investigator team requested information regarding the entities’ relationship with Emefiele, Lemo, Andrew Ojei, and others.

However, in its response to the panel’s letter on September 1, 2023, UBN requested that “we submit the documents/information requested for in printed and electronic formats for ease of your review and analysis”.

The bank also said Vink and Savara would be unavailable for the meeting, noting that “they will be available for the meeting as soon as they are in Nigeria which we hope will be soon”.

TTB SUGGESTED VINK, SAVARA CLARIFY INVOLVEMENT IN THE COMPANY

According to the special investigator team, based on earlier discussions with the entities, TTB suggested that Savara and Vink 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”.

The special investigator team said it was shocked at the bank’s request with regard to the two shareholders, who were given the opportunity to appear before the panel since August 28, 2023, according to the letter.

The panel said instead of honouring the invitation and providing the requested documents, UBN informed the special investigator in its letter 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 the defence in the public domain, the special investigator team said it 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 DFI), Opposite Nigeria Police Force Headquarters, Shehu Shagari Way, Area 11, Garki, Abuja; without fail or excuse,” the panel said.

“Please inform them to come along with all the documents/information requested from them by the letter to Mr. Cornelius Vink dated 28th August 2023 (attached herewith as Appendix 1). 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 refused to attend this meeting and provide/defend the requested documents/information, it will be construed that they have decided to forfeit their purported shareholdings in TTB and Union Bank of Nigeria; irrespective of which vehicle that they are using to own the purported shares.

The panel warned that if Lemo also refuses to attend the meeting to provide additional statement to his earlier statement made in August 2023, “it will be construed that you misled the Nigerian public with your reaction” in the newspapers “which has gained wide publicity in both electronic and print media”.

The invitation, according to the special investigator team, is to further ensure that it is beyond reasonable doubt, “the federal government has given the company a fair hearing”.

– The Cable

About the author

Abiodun Adisa is the CEO of Applaud Multimedia Services Publisher of Applaud News Magazine and Online @www.applaudnews.com.ng

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