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Anxiety heightens on take -over threat of GT bank by Innoson boss, Chukwuma

Innocent Chukwuma, Chairman, Innoson Group,
Eyewitness reporter

There are now widespread jitters among the depositors of the Guarantee Trust Bank( GTB) over the recent move by the Chairman of Nigeria’s Auto manufacturing company, Innoson Group, Innocent Chukwuma, to take over the assets of the bank.

There has been a running legal battle between the bank and the owner of the auto manufacturing giant over a disputed “non-payment of  N32 billion” owed the auto manufacturer.
Chukwuma, in an interview with journalists, said he was waiting to allow the debt to surpass the capacity of the back for payment before he moves in to take over its assets.
Innoson and GTB have had a business dispute leading to a prolonged legal battle.

Innoson had secured judgment debt against the bank in suit FHC/L/Cs/603/2006 and FHC/Cs/139/2012 respectively, which rose to over N32 billion due to accumulated interest.

In July, Innoson had asked a Federal High court in Lagos to set aside an order permitting GTB to restructure to a holding company.

But the bank completed the restructuring — GTB is now known as Guaranty Trust Holding Company Plc (GTCO Plc).

The billionaire businessman, at the media briefing, recounted that his relationship with the bank had been extremely cordial during the tenure of Olutayo Aderinokun, late MD of GTB.

“I was GTBANK’s best customer in the South-East when Tayo, the former MD, was alive. Because of this, they opened a branch in Nnewi. After Tayo, the new MD took over. I don’t even know him. I saw him for the first time last year,” Chukuma said.

“They started fighting about the tribe. I am not certain about this but I think the reason he (GTB) is fighting is because of the tribe. I don’t know exactly what his problem is.

“But finally, I have proved him wrong in everything. I have defeated him in all the courts we went to. The only thing left is for him to pay me what he owes me.

“He was going to my account and taking money anyhow. I discovered it, took him to court, and won. Up till now, he hasn’t paid and we have gone up to the Supreme court. Maybe he hasn’t paid because he wants Nigeria to change their law because of him.”

The Innoson boss explained that he would no longer “disturb” the bank to pay the debt.

According to him, he would take over the bank when it gets to the point that the bank cannot pay the principal amount plus 22 percent accrued interest.

“The beauty of the whole thing is that the money is attracting the interest of 22 percent. So, I am waiting for the interest to be above their capacity so I can take over the bank,” Chukuma said.

“That’s what I am waiting for. I am not disturbing them anymore. I am assuring all the customers of GTB that if I take over, I would still run it well. They shouldn’t fear. I haven’t done any business that fails.

“I will run it better than them. If they cannot pay me, I have no choice but to take over the management”, he declared.

This has created an atmosphere of anxiety among the depositors of the bank who are uncertain about the future of the bank in case the auto manufacturer carries out his threat.
Experts expressed fear of a backlash effect on the operations of the bank such as a possible run on the bank by its panicky depositors if the issue is not immediately resolved.
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P&ID fraud : Court convicts, winds up Marqott Nigeria Limited.

Owolola Adebola

Justice D.U Okorowo of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has convicted and wound up Marqott Nigeria Limited,  one of the 30 companies associated with the  Process and Industrial Development Limited, P & ID,  for money laundering.

The company was convicted on Thursday,  June 16, 2022, after being found guilty of four-count charges bordering on money laundering preferred against it by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

Count one of the charges read: “That you, Marqott Nigeria Limited, being a designated Non-financial Institution; and Giovanni Beccarelli, Valentina Fantoli, and Dimitri Duca, being directors of and signatories to the bank account of Marqott Nigeria Limited, sometime in September 2014, in Abuja, within the Abuja Judicial Division of the Federal High Court, failed to comply with the requirements of submitting to the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, a declaration of activities of Marqott Nigeria Limited contrary to Section 16(1) (f) read together with Section 5(1)(a)(ii) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011(as amended and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.”

Count two read:  “That you, Marqott Nigeria Limited, being a designated Non-financial Institution; and Giovanni Beccarelli, Valentina Fantoli, and Dimitri Duca, being directors of and signatories to the bank account of Marqott Nigeria Limited, sometime in September 2014, in Abuja, within the Abuja Judicial Division of the Federal High Court, failed to develop programs to combat money laundering and other illegal acts, to wit: failure to designate at management level a compliance officer within any strata of Marqott Nigeria Limited, contrary to Section 16(1)(f) read together with Section 9(1)(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 16 (2)(b) of the same Act”.

At the point of the first arraignment on February 7, 2022,  the defendant pleaded “not guilty” to the charges, setting the stage for a full trial.

In the course of the trial, the EFCC presented many witnesses and tendered many documents as exhibits.

In his judgment,  Justice Okorowo found Marqott Nigeria Limited guilty of all the four-count charges and convicted it accordingly.   He also ordered that the company be wound up  and its entire assets forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Marqott was first arraigned on Monday,  February 7, 2022, for being an accomplice in the $9.6bn Gas Supply and Processing Agreement between the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and  P&ID.

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N25.7bn fraud: Appeal Court affirms conviction of ex-Bank PHB MD, Atuche, others

Atuche and wife

Owolola  Adebola

A three-man panel of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division,  on Thursday, June 23, 2022,  upheld the conviction of a former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB Plc, Francis Atuche, as well as the bank’s former Chief Financial Officer, Ugo Anyanwu.

Atuche and his co-convict, Anyanwu, had approached the appellate court to set aside their conviction by Justice Lateefa Okunnu of the Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos on June 16, 2021, over a N25.7 billion fraud.

The panel, comprising Justices Sadiq Umar, Adebukola Banjoko and Kayode Bada, while resolving all the issues in the appeal in favour of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) except the sentencing, also clarified that Atuche’s jail term was 12 years concurrently, rather than 120 years,  handed down by the lower court, if calculated consecutively.

Also,  the panel reduced Anyanwu’s jail term from 10 years to eight years and affirmed the discharge and acquittal of Atuche’s wife, Elizabeth.

In an abridged ruling read by Justice Umar, the three-man panel upheld the EFCC’s arguments and unanimously dismissed the appeal.

It would be recalled that,  in 2021, Justice Okunnu, while sentencing Atuche and Anyanwu, had upheld the arguments of the prosecution counsel, Kemi Pinheiro, SAN.

About three years after their arraignment by the EFCC in 2011, they had approached the Court of Appeal, to challenge their trial by the lower court for lack of jurisdiction.
 But in a judgment delivered in September 2016, the court ordered Justice Okunnu to hands-off the trial but did not quash the numbers of counts against the defendants.
 Consequently, the EFCC  approached the Supreme Court to set aside the judgment and order a trial in the matter.
In its judgment,  the apex court directed that the case be returned to Justice Okunnu for the continuation of trial.
While the trial lasted,   Pinheiro opposed Atuche’s contention that the funds in dispute were loaned and not stolen.
Delivering judgment, Justice Okunnu had held that “The first and third defendants did not debunk the evidence of the prosecution that the loans were used to purchase shares.
“They rather contended that the monies granted as a loan could be used for whatever purposes.” The trial court,  therefore, sentenced Atuche and Anyanwu, but acquitted Atuche’s wife.

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Jamoh raises hope on removal of war risk insurance  on Nigeria- bound cargo

 

— as Lloyd’s of London meets September with stakeholders
Eyewitness reporter
The Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has given assurance of early resolution of the vexed issue of war risk issuance slammed by the international shipping cartel on Nigeria- bound cargo.
The surcharge was imposed on Nigeria-bound cargo during the heady days of piracy on Nigerian waters.
But due to the efforts of NIMASA with the collaboration of other sister agencies, pirate incidents were brought down to a minimal level so much so that Nigeria has had zero piracy attacks since the beginning of 2022.
This has led the country to be removed from the red list of pirate nations in March 2022.
However, despite this feat, the international shipping cartel still maintains the war risk insurance on Nigeria- cargo.
This has made NIMASA embark on a campaign to make the shipping cartel drop the surcharge.
However, Dr. Jamoh, while speaking during the tour of NIMASA facilities in Lagos by the Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, gave an indication of early removal of the surcharge.
According to him,  the Lloyd’s of London, which are the coordinators of insurance surcharges on Nigeria- bound cargoes, will meet in September to deliberate on Nigeria’s request for review of the surcharge.
” Our hope is that by September this year, the issue of War Risk Insurance will be addressed when the Lloyd’s of London, coordinators of insurance surcharges on Nigerian bound cargoes meet to deliberate on our position paper which highlights the short, medium, and long term plans to sustain the achievements in our war against piracy in Nigeria” NIMASA DG declared.
Meanwhile, Senator Gbemisola Saraki has expressed satisfaction with the management of NIMASA while she was on a tour of the assets and equipment of the agency in Lagos on Wednesday.
 Among the assets inspected included the NIMASA Command, Control and Computer Centre (C4i), the NIMASA Modular Floating Dockyard, the NIMASA E-library and Vessels belonging to the Agency undergoing dry docking at the Naval Dockyard Victoria Island.

The Honorable Minister expressed delight at the equipment and assets of NIMASA, stating that it underscores the importance the Federal Government attaches to combating maritime crimes and ensuring zero tolerance for illegal activities on the nation’s territorial waters.

While commending the synergy and collaboration amongst agencies of Government in the maritime sector, the Honorable Minister expressed delight at the fact that Nigeria has witnessed piracy-free waters since 2022.

Accordingly, she said; “for over 28 years, we have been in the press for the wrong reasons, over the piracy issues at the Gulf of Guinea (GoG).

” We were there when Mr. President commissioned the DEEP BLUE PROJECT last year and within that short frame of time, we have broken the jinx, and for the last five months zero attacks, so I think that says it all for my assessment of NIMASA”.

Furthermore, Senator Saraki noted the need to sustain the momentum to ensure Nigeria remains attractive to investors, adding that the Ministry is delighted at the steps NIMASA is taking to address the issue of War Risk Insurance premium on Nigerian Bound Cargoes.

“The most important thing now is that we don’t rest on our oars. The Free Trade Agreement and how it affects Nigeria is our focus.

“We hope to create an enabling environment to be very attractive and highly competitive when compared to neighboring countries and collaboration amongst all maritime agencies of Government in terms of information gathering and sharing is key in achieving this”. she said.

However, the Director-General of NIMASA, Dr Bashir Jamoh disclosed that the focus of the agency is sustaining the achievements in recent times, adding that the plans are in three categories of short medium and long term.

“Our focus now is to sustain the tempo

 “We are very optimistic that the clamour for the removal of war risk insurance premium on Nigerian bound cargos will soon yield positive results.
” The international community desires sustainability of Nigeria’s war on piracy and maritime crimes. The good thing is that they are part and parcel of our processes and procedures.
“We have the Nigeria Join Industry Working Group where all stakeholders including the INTERTANKO, the largest owners of tankers in the world, the INTERCARGO, the largest owners of Cargos in the world and the major oil marketing companies meeting regularly discussing developments in the Nigerian Maritime industry.
” We have also strengthened our collaboration with the Nigerian Navy.
” The SHADE Gulf of Guinea is another platform where inter-regional organisations such as the ICC and the European Union foster collaboration to secure the Gulf of Guinea.

“Though Nigeria was removed from the red list of piracy nations on the 3rd of March this year, it is natural that the international community will desire sustainability.

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