Fidelity Bank: $115m Cash Deposit was Reported

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·Says it is cooperating with EFCC
·Commission invites oil firms as INEC officials refund N300m
Iyobosa Uwugiaren and Senator Iroegbu in Abuja

The management of Fidelity Bank Plc on Thursday said the $115 million cash transfer, which led to the arrest of its Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo, on Monday and his subsequent interrogation, was duly reported to the appropriate authorities, adding however that it was cooperating with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as the investigation progresses.

The bank’s reaction came as the EFCC stepped up its investigation into the huge lodgement, dragging in four oil firm and their directors whom, THISDAY gathered last night, have been invited for questioning following a presidential directive.

The four oil firms were said to have made the lodgements, which the presidency, according to THISDAY checks, is bent on recovering from the companies. The firm officials are billed for interrogation this morning at the commission’s Lagos office.

The EFCC had arrested Fidelity Bank’s chief executive for allegedly receiving $115 million in lodgements from the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, and disbursed the funds to politicians in the build up to the 2015 presidential election that was lost by former President Goodluck Jonathan.

“We can confirm that the transactions were duly reported as required by the regulators,” the bank’s management said in a statement, adding that it was cooperating fully with the authorities on the investigation.

The bank’s statement read: “Our attention has been drawn to reports in the media on investigations into transactions undertaken by the bank in the normal course of business in 2015.
“The transactions are now the subject matter of investigations by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

“We can confirm that the transactions were duly reported as required by the regulators and the bank is cooperating fully with the authorities on the investigation.
“We assure our numerous stakeholders, including our customers, that we are working assiduously towards a quick resolution of the issues.”
Under the Bank and Other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA) and Money Laundering Act, banks are mandated to report unusual transactions to the EFCC.

The commission’s investigators, THISDAY gathered, are getting useful information from Okonkwo and the bank’s Head of Operations, Mr. Martins Izuogbe, who is also in the EFCC net for his alleged role in the disbursement of the funds, which the anti-graft agency described as unprecedented.

“They have succeeded in providing the list of beneficiaries of the funds,’’ a senior EFCC operative told THISDAY last night, adding that the commission had raised a crack team to dig into the sources of the funds paid to Alison-Madueke by the affected oil companies.
The $115 million was said to have been given to Alison-Madueke by the companies, while she was alleged to have contributed another $25.77 million.

A senior operative in anti-graft agency further said that in the run up to the presidential election, Alison-Madueke gave a list to the Fidelity Bank MD and instructed him to change the $115million into naira and disburse the money to INEC officials in the 36 states, some individuals and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The source said: “We have extended invitations to some of the owners of the oil firms who brought the pool of $115million that was given to Fidelity Bank Plc to change into naira for the purpose of tampering with the results of the presidential election.

“So far, only one of them has indicated interest in appearing before our team. We will give others some time to report but they are under surveillance, they cannot run out of this country.
“Once they can explain the legitimate sources of the funds, we will allow them to go home. By the Money Laundering Act, they were not supposed to be in possession of such huge cash.”

The EFCC source added: “We have interrogated INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) officials from Rivers, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Oyo, Ogun, Osun and Lagos States. This exercise is being carried out simultaneously in all the 36 states because INEC officials and some NGOs benefitted from the bribes.”

Meanwhile, THISDAY’s source said last night that Fidelity Bank had refunded N40 million, being the interest on the funds deposited in the bank.
Also INEC officials from Osun, Ogun and Oyo States who were arrested, are also said to have refunded N300 million.
However, the source did not disclose the cadre of officials arrested in the affected Southwestern states.

Apart from the INEC officials arrested, a former chairman of INEC has also been invited up the anti-graft agency in connection with the bribery scandal.
The former INEC chairman was believed to have served as an election strategist to the Goodluck Jonathan Presidential Campaign Organisation on how to manipulate poll results.