Senate Starts Probe of Enelamah, MTN’s Alleged Illicit Repatriation of $14bn

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Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

The Senate tuesday opened the probe into the alleged fraudulent repatriation of $13.92 billion from Nigeria by the Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, in collusion with MTN Nigeria Limited, without authorisation.

According to the Senate, MTN, in collaboration with the minister, exploited the porous Nigerian financial system by illegally moving the money out of the country.

It said MTN smartly beat the Nigeria’s financial regulatory laws by failing to obtain a certificate of capital importation, which would have authorised it to move capital into Nigeria from its South African bankers, Standard Chartered Bank, as authorised by the law within 24 hours.

The Senate further disclosed that MTN was incorporated in Nigeria in 2000 as a private liability company and eventually obtained its operating licence with the sum of $284,906,275.89 on February 6, 2001 but failed to bring capital into Nigeria as required, adding that when it eventually moved in $117.6 billion between 2001 and 2003, it did so in three tranches.

It described this action as a sheer violation of the law authorising capital importation within 24 hours.

Moving the motion during the plenary, Senator Dino Melaye gave the breakdown of how the money was repatriated through four banks, which he named as Stanbic IBTC – $4.87 billion; Standard Chartered Bank – $5.72 billion; Citi Bank – $2.98 billion and Diamond Bank – $0.35 billion, pointing out that the repatriation was done in violation of Memorandum 22 of the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring & Miscellaneous) Act, 1995.

He said: “The Senate notes with serious concern the repatriation of $13.92 billion illegally out of Nigeria by Mobile Telecommunication Network (MTN) Limited through its bankers between 2006 and 2016.

“The Senate is aware that MTN was incorporated in Nigeria as a private limited liability company on the 8th of November 2000, obtaining its operating licence with $284,906,275.89 on February, 2001.

“The Senate observes that MTN did not request for certificate of capital importation from its bankers, Standard Chartered Bank, within the regulatory period of 24 hours of the inflow.

“It observes also that the CBN was not notified of this inflow by Standard Chartered Bank within 48 hours of receipt and conversion of the proceeds to naira as required by regulations.

“The Senate further observes that the sum of $117.68 billion was also brought in by MTN between 2001 and 2003 in three different tranches.
“The Senate is concerned that since inception, MTN sought the collaboration of influential and unpatriotic Nigerians to assist them in looting our external reserves.”

He accused Enelamah, whom he described as the owner of CELTELCOM and operates in Mauritius, of claiming to have invested in MTN on February6, 2008 and consequently obtaining a certificate of capital importation and closing the same investment the same day after receiving dollar payments, which Melaye alleged the minister repatriated to New York on the same day.

“It is alarming that the Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, owner of CELTELCOM Investment Limited with address at No. 608, St. James Denis Street, Port Lewis Mauritius purpotedly claimed to invest in MTN on 7th February 2008, got a certificate of capital importation and filled From A on the same date (7th February 2008) closed his investment in Nigeria after receiving dollar payment for repatriation to New York on the same day,” he said.

Melaye also alleged that some Nigerians, including the Chairman of Diamond Bank, Pascal Dozie, Ahmed Dasuki, Gbenga Oyebode, Babatunde Folawiyo, Enelamah, Mohammed Sanni Bello and Victor Odili, of operating a Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) outside the country but got “shareholders loan and their repayment to the extent of repatriation of proceeds of dividends back to MTN International South Africa through the entities and operators of SPVs were brought on board as directors of MTN Nigeria”.

Melaye then proceeded to list the authorised processes of repatriating funds which he said were all violated by MTN and Enelamah.

Among them is that the authorised dealer through which the foreign currency or capital for the investment referred to in sub-section 1 of this section is imported shall, within 24 hours of the importation, issue a certificate of capital importation to the investor and shall within 48 hours thereafter, make returns to the CBN giving such information as the central bank may from time to time require.

Having made his presentation, the Senate mandated its Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions to carry out a holistic investigation into the matter and report its findings back to the Senate.