The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Wednesday dissolved the boards of four banks – Titan Trust Bank, Union Bank, Polaris Bank, and Keystone Bank, a move analysts believed was not unconnected with the outcome of the investigation of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) by Special Investigator, Jim Obazee.
The decision to dissolve the boards was taken after a meeting between the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Yemi Cardoso, Obazee and the board of the four banks including the investors in Titan Trust Bank that had earlier avoided meeting with the Special Investigator.
The special investigator had given Titan Trust Bank and Union Bank the deadline of December 28, 2023 to present themselves and defend their acquisition of the two banks. In particular, the Special Investigator asked for the attendance of the Chairman of Titan Trust Bank, Babatunde Lemo and two other prominent shareholders, Cornelius Vink and Rahul Savara, warning that they risk the forfeiture of their shares in both Titan Trust Bank and Union Bank Nigeria if they refuse to honour the invitation to them by the Presidential Special Investigator on December 28, 2023.
The trio were via a December 24th letter invited to appear before the team of the Special Investigator today for a follow-up meeting on the investigation of the two banks.
However, the trio replied through their lawyer, Gbolahan Elias QC, SAN, in a letter dated 27, 2023 that they were holidaying abroad. Elias in the letter said the trio of Lemo, Vink and Savara are away from the country and cannot return to Nigeria before the second week in January 2024.
Following this, the office of the Special Investigator threatened to trigger the conditions in the December 24th letter referenced CR:3000/TSI/ABJ/Vol.1/69 which warned that they would forfeit their shares in the two banks if they failed to honour the December 28th invitation and provide/defend the documents requested.
“Kindly note that if Messrs. Cornelius Vink and Rahul Savara refuse to attend this meeting and provide/defend the requested documents/information, it will be construed that they have decided to forfeit their purported shareholders in TTB and Union Bank of Nigeria irrespective of which vehicle they are using to own the purported shares”.
Should you (Lemo) also refuse to attend the meeting to provide additional statement to your earlier statement made in August 2023, it will be construed that you misled the Nigerian public with your reaction in the Punch Newspapers which has gained wide publicity in both electronic and print media”, stated the December 24th invitation to the trio of Lemo, Savara and Vinks.
The trio were requested to appear with the documentation that led to the licensing of Titan Trust Bank and the acquisition of controlling shareholding of Union Bank of Nigeria by Luxis and Magna, proof of funds, international verifiable bank statements (From the incorporation of the entities to date) and the shareholders that gave interest-free loans to the two entities separately (name, nationality, source, of the fund, proof of such funds, bank statements) as well as the relationship of the entities with Andrew Chukwudi Ojei, Jerome Olagunju Shogbon, Rahul Savara, Winston Odeh, Adaeze Udensi, Ekene Samuel Loius, Godwin Emefiele, Macombe Omoile, Tunde Lemo, Mudasir Amry, Faruk Gumel, Oluremi Oni, Vink Corporation Middle Est FCZ (together with the details of the shareholder that also gave Vink Corporation interest-free loan.
They are also to provide details of how Trust receipts from (Standard Chartered Bank), Zenith Nigeria Plc, and Zenith Bank (UK) were involved in the entire arrangement and also, the minutes of the board meetings, copy of the audited financial statements and management letter that arose from the audit of the financial statements of the two entities listed in (1) above as well as those of TTB and UBN from 2018 to date.
Lemo with the two shareholders are also to provide the details of any forbearance received from the CBN for UBN (before acquisition by TTB) and why should you not know, and also to come along with anyone who knows about it (with evidence), and also, the details of the loan capital from Afreximbank (Egypt), collaterals thereto and the involvement of the CBN in the entire arrangement.
Also requested are the details of any foreign exchange dealings that transacted with the CBN as retail or wholesale or facilitator with TGI, TTB, Luxis, Magna and other related entities, no matter how remotely connected and also, any other documents that can assist the Special Investigator in arriving at an informed decision on the investigation of TTB, UBN, CBN and any person of interest in the entire arrangement.
However, their Counsel in the letter entitled, Re: CBN Investigation Activities: Invitation for a Follow-Up Meeting With the Special Investigator” on Wednesday stated, “We trust this letter meets you well. We are lawyers for Titan Trust Bank and Union Bank plc. We respectfully have their instructions to write this letter in respect of the invitations in your letter to TTB dated December 23, 2023.
“Unfortunately, both Mr. Tunde Lemo and the two largest ultimate investors in the banks (Mr. Cornelius Vink; and Rahul Savara) are away from Nigeria at the moment for family and other reasons. That is typically so at this time of the year, They are not due to be in Nigeria before the second week in January 2024. They will honour the invitations fully soon after they come in”, stated Elias.
“With regard to the information requested, which we submitted earlier on 1st September 2023 at the DSS HQ as evidenced in Annex 1 therewith, we will resubmit the information tomorrow for your kind review. The individual invitees and the banks re-iterate their willingness and readiness to cooperate with your good selves in your important work”, stated Elias who said further enquiries be directed to the law firm.
The Office of the Special Investigator said the excuse by Lemo, Vink and Savara through their counsel is untenable as it is a way to obstruct the work of the Special Investigator.
In a December 27th reply referenced CR:3000/TSI/ABJ/Vol.1/71 to Lemo through the Acting Managing Director of Titan Trust Bank, the Head of Operation, Office of the Special Investigator, Elohor Okpoziakpo noted that “I am directed to inform you that the Special Investigator is fully aware that you are in the United Kingdom to celebrate your birthday. This, you made aware to the Special Investigator when you agreed to attend a meeting to be scheduled for December 28th and also proposed that Mr. Cornelius Vink and Rahul Savara be given seven days (7 days) to prove their purported ownership of Titan Trust Bank and Union Bank of Nigeria or forfeit their shares to the federal government. Accordingly, this excuse given by your good selves through your lawyers is unacceptable and regarded as obstruction of the Special Investigator in the course of his duties”.
Eloho continued in the letter entitled, Re: CBN Investigation Activities, Invitation For Follow-Up Meeting With The Special Investigator”, ” I want to put it on record that neither you (Babatunde Lemo) nor Cornelius Vink nor Rahul Savara ever submitted any of these requested documents to the investigating team at Department of State Service (DSS) or anywhere else before now. In fact, Cornelius Vink and Rahul Savara have never presented themselves to the Special Investigator since the 28th when they were first invited for an interview”.
Furthermore, the Head of Operations warned that documents submitted through proxies shall not be accepted as Mr. Cornelius Vink, Rahul Savara and Lemo will be requested to speak to whatever documents/information you present during the meeting.
In addition, he stated, “Consequently, I am to further inform you that your invitation to appear before the Special Investigator on 28th December 2023 by 2pm prompt in respect of the matter under investigation and for which you had earlier made statement, stands”, warning that the conditions on paragraphs 6 to 8 in earlier letter of December 24th remains effective and shall be triggered if you or Messrs Vink and Savara fail to attend the meeting as scheduled.