Thursday, May 23, 2019 4:54 pm
The Federal Government has began criminal investigation into alleged misappropriation of two billion dollars worth of Atlas Mara’s Union Back Plc shares owned by 65,000 shareholders, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports.
NAN source in the Federal Ministry of Justice disclosed this on Thursday in Abuja.
The investigation hinged on a petition reporting the alleged fraud submitted to the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, dated April 3, 2019.
The petition is titled “Official corruption, misuse of FGN USD two billion, fraud and unjust enrichment of persons who dispossessed more than 65,000 Nigerians and conferred ownership of the Bank on few Nigerians and their foreign accomplices’’.
The petition had fingered former Central Bank Governor, the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi II, under whose watch the alleged fraud was perpetuated.
Also accused of alleged complexities in the transactions were the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Sen. Udo Udoma and the Minister of Trade and Investment, Okey Enelamah.
Enelamah was particularly fingered as the mastermind of the transaction by allegedly leading Africa Capital Alliance to form the Mauritius shell company to house Nigerians pretending to be foreign investors.
The transactions allegedly dispossessed Nigerian shareholders and investors in order to transfer ownership of the bank to a few persons including insiders, chieftains of competitor banks and others who would not pass CBN’s “fit and proper’’ test for bank ownership.
The petition claimed that Enelamah allegedly organised the registration of the offshore shell company in Mauritius called Union Global Partners Limited for the purpose of disguising the true majority ownership of Union Bank shares concealed in the offshore company.
The petition alleged that the transactions commenced under Udoma’s supervision as Chairman of Security and Exchange Commission and sealed up when he became the Chairman of Union Bank of Nigeria Plc.
“The circumstances can best be described as official corruption and insider trading’’, the petition alleged.
The petition further alleged that Udoma and the officials illicitly granted a renewable five year waiver to Union Bank of Nigeria to remain listed on the exchange in spite of being owned by a few private equity firms till today.
According to the petition, the alleged unlawful action is to ensure the more than 65,000 Nigeria former shareholders whose shares were diluted from 85 per cent to less than 15 per cent of public float to still be listed on Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).
“It is to be recalled that 49% shares of Union Bank of Nigeria plc is now majority owned and controlled by London listed Atlas Mara, the investment company led by Robert Diamond Jr.
“Mr Diamond is a former Chief Executive Officer of Barclays Bank who was sacked for his involvement in manipulating Libor.
“Not only is Mr Diamond not a fit and proper person to own a bank according to the rules of Nigeria, he had also been blacklisted by the Bank of England as a result of the Libor manipulation.
“One wonders how the former CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi authorised the Union Bank change of ownership transaction and bridged it with USD two billion national patrimony, in spite of glaring evidence of fraud and the nature of the ultimate foreign owner who was already known and waiting in the wings.
“There are evidence that Atlas Mara has visions of owning 100% of Union Bank of Nigeria plc which they can only achieve by buying shares warehoused by the few privileged Nigerians that acquired the bank in apparently unwholesome circumstances.
“Those few privileged Nigerians are now cashing in on their loot in transactions with Atlas Mara, at the expense of dispossessed Nigerians.
“It is public knowledge that previous transactions on Union Bank Nigeria plc for Bob Diamond’s Atlas Mara were advised by Rothschild & Cie; and funded by investors mostly in London.
“Meanwhile it was also revealed that Union Bank of Nigeria plc has concealed from regulators, investors and the public outstanding Swiss Court judgment debts of more than one billion Naira and imminent judgment debts of five billion Naira respectively.
“Available evidence shows that many unhappy shareholders are lamenting that the bank has not paid cash dividends in nearly 10 years while the financial statements show princely remunerations to executive management, directors and lawyers paid to defer more than USD 50 million of claims against the bank’’, the petition alleged.