Per Second News—A band of crime fighters have blown the lid off a banking scam perpetrated by the management of WEMA Bank PLC.
A 2016 gross earnings of N54.25 billion and Profit After Tax (PAT) of N2.59 billion has been overshadowed by ongoing fallout from a phony-dud cheque scandal that has plagued the bank in recent months.
Management of the bank has been accused of allegedly issuing dud cheques to the tune of N346 million Naira to a customer, Starross Energy Limited, in a N5.2 billion crude oil deal gone sour, Per Second News gathered.
Information reaching Per Second News indicate that Wema bank is also in trouble for dealing in oil business which is outside its core mandate.
The bank was also accused of using unethical and overly aggressive cross-selling tactics- pressuring customers to purchase additional financial products or services that they didn’t need – to meet sales goals.
Outraged by the fraudulent practice of some officials of Wema Bank in a N5.2 billion crude oil deal, Starross Energy Limited has asked the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to intervene and sanction the bank.
In a petition to the Apex Bank, the company also wants the CBN to compel the commercial bank to pay the outstanding money and sanction it for issuing dud cheques to the tune of N346 million.
Per Second News obtained copies of the petition sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions of the Federation (DPP), Mr Muhammed Saidu Diri, and the Chairman, the Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, Sen. Utazi Chukwuka Godfrey, over the alleged fraud committed since October 2014.
The petitioners’ National Coordinator, Philip Odekeye, and Messers Wole Abdulkadir & Co., solicitors to Starross Energy Ltd, alleged that the anti-graft body has failed to arrest and prosecute issuers of the dud cheques totaling N346 million reported to it.
In addition, they have also petitioned against Wema Bank to the Central Bank, reporting the issuance of dud cheques and had in February 2015 forwarded letters to the Chairman and the Managing Director of the bank, accusing them of issuing the dud cheques to the company.
The letters were received and stamped also on Dec.14, 2016 at both offices at the Federal Ministry of Justice, while the Offices of Senate President and Senator Utazi received and stamped the letters on Dec. 9, 2016.
The petitioners stated that the company legally registered under the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) for buying, selling, marketing and distributing all kinds of petroleum products, including crude oil, executed an agreement or MoU with its suppliers, who were the vessel handlers/managers of the crude oil tanker — MT Cosmic Jewel — and who were also marketing about 2,000,000 barrels of Bonny Light Crude Oil (BLCO) loaded in the vessel in October 2014 for NNPC/Joint Venture Operators, the owners of the crude.
They also stated that under the agreement or MoU, that the company as an affiliate or middleman was to bring “a ready, willing and able buyer’’ to buy the crude and that the difference between the price given in the MoU by the suppliers to the company and any price given by the company to any buyer brought to buy the crude was the consideration or profit for the service of the company in the transaction.
It was further agreed that any buyer brought shall pay the full cost of the cargo in dollars or naira equivalent to the nominated bank account of NNPC/Joint Venture Operators which in turn shall issue all the documents for the sale and transfer of ownership of the crude oil to such buyer after making full payment.
According to them, in October 2014 the company got a buyer who was acting as a frontman or agent for Wema Bank, the Chairman, the Managing Director and the Management of the bank showed great interest in the crude oil deal.
“Several meetings were held at the conference room at the Head Office of the bank with the company officials and the lawyers on Oct. 27 and Oct. 28, 2014 respectively where they assured the company that the bank was actually buying the crude oil using the frontman as the buyer to resell to their Foreign Off takers and make profit.
“In preparation for the meeting on Oct. 27, the company on the eve of the meeting, tracked the loaded vessel — MT Cosmic Jewel — on the internet and printed out the AIS colour photographs and live ship map showing that it was on the Nigerian waters at about 8.39 p.m. on Oct. 26.
“The company took the photographs and other documents to the meeting, but would not release them unless the bank’s buyer made a commitment deposit of $2,000,000.00 and they agreed and accepted to give the company two cheques totaling N346 million (the Naira equivalent of $2,000,000.00 at that time) after they must have tracked and confirmed the cargo and agreed that the cheques would be cashed immediately by the company.
“The bank initiated the preparation of the Sales and Purchase Agreement (SPA) of Oct. 28, 2014 at the bank’s Head Office which reflected the two cheques totaling N346 million and asked the company to open a corporate account at the bank’s Head Office branch for instant transfer.
“On the strength of the repeated assurances given to the company by the bank and its buyer that the bank had paid sufficient funds into the buyer’s account to buy the crude oil, the company released the photographs of MT Cosmic Jewel map showing its location on Nigerian waters, Bills of Lading, Cargo Manifest, Certificate of Origin, CPA and other documents containing the telephone numbers, contact address and other vital information of the company’s suppliers to the bank and its buyer.
“After obtaining the cargo documents from the company, the bank and its buyer used the bank’s Head Office machines and computers to reproduce, scan and sent the documents by email to their Foreign Off Takers, and also used the Head Office’s internet facilities to track the cargo and confirmed that it was real.
“On presentation of the cheques, the two cheques bounced at the banking hall after both parties had earlier agreed that if the buyer and the bank or any person(s) or company circumvented the company, the N346 million commitment deposit would be forfeited as penalty to the company and in addition, the money equivalent to any loss suffered by the company (Starross Energy Ltd) in the event of any false pretence or circumvention would be paid to the company as provided for under Articles 8.5, 8.6 and 8.7 of the Sales and Purchase Agreement dated Oct. 28, 2014.
“The bank with the connivance of its Chairman, Managing Director, Directors, Managers and Frontman had cut off, by passed and circumvented the company to conclude the deal,’’ the petitioners said.
“It then became clear that they had used the Bank’s Head Office premises as scene of crime to deceive and to lure the company to the bank as a customer and had deliberately issued the two dud cheques under false pretences and obtained the company’s property or documents of the loaded Vessel — MT Cosmic Jewel — with intent to defraud it of the money or profit expected from the transaction.
“The company suffered the economic loss of over N5.2 billion covering the commitment deposit of N346 million and N4. 91 billion (being the difference in the price of N80.00 per litre given by the company to the bank and its buyer in the agreement or SPA of 28th October 2014 and N67.00 per litre given by the suppliers to the company which is N13.00 per litre multiplied by 378,000,000 litres (at 189 litres per barrel).
However, the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation says it has begun investigation into the matter, according to a letter signed by the Director of Public Prosecutions of the Federation (DPP), Muhammad Saidu Diri, on behalf of the minister.
The letter reads in part: “I am directed to acknowledge your letter (the petitioner’s) dated 4th May 2016 on the above subject matter (Re: Letter of Protest against the EFCC to bungle a N5.2 billion bank fraud and protection of criminals from arrest and prosecution) is being investigated.
“The outcome will be communicated to you as soon as action is completed on it.’’
The petition signed by the company’s lawyers — Messers Wole Abdulkadir & Co., solicitors lawyers also petitioned the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, and the Attorney General of the Federation and Justice Minister, Abubakar Malami, over alleged shielding of some officials of Wema Bank from prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in a N5.2 billion oil fraud.
In May a Nigerian model based in the United States of America, Nneoma Anosike, filed an action against Wema Bank PLC before a Lagos Division of the Federal High Court for allegedly using her photos for commercial purposes without authorization.
Ms. Anosike, 22, sued the bank through her father, Frank Anosike, who doubles as her lawyer, claiming N97 million as damages.
According to the plaintiff, the bank on April 11, 2016, used her photo for a commercial on social network platform, Instagram, without her consent or authorization from Ford Models Inc, her American management company.
The plaintiff also sought an order directing the bank to pay her N20 million for the breach of her privacy by advertising her private correspondence; an order to publish a written apology in two national dailies in Nigeria and in the U.S.; and N2 million as cost of filing the suit, Per Second News learnt.