Akin Kuponiyi

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, southwest Ngeria, has adjourned till 30 September continuation of trial of an accused manager of First City Monument Bank Plc, Andrea Chizoba Okpalangwu, alleged to have been fraudulently operating illegal banking activities within the bank.

According to a petition written to Commissioner of Police, Special Fraud Unit, and jointly signed by the Head of legal services of the bank, Olufemi Adekunle and another lawyer Adewale Fati from the same legal department, what led to the trial of the accused FCMB manager started sometime in november, 2012 when Sterling Bank Plc Head Office alerted First City Monument Bank Plc of suspicious transfer of N15 million from an account in FCMB Revue World Resources Limited company account number 0779848013 to account in their bank, Bizmates Energy company.

Sterling bank stated further that their customer (Bizmate Energy) later gave them another instruction to transfer the money back into various accounts in FCMB.

It was in turn discovered by the group internal auditor of FCMB after investigation that: (1) The staff of Bizmate Energy maintained individual salary accounts in FCMB which were opened between August and October 2012. The staff of the company were availed salary plus facilities usually about two weeks after opening of the accounts. It was noticed that as soon as these loans were disbursed, the staff will transfer the disbursed funds to Revue World Resources in FCMB.

(2) Forty-Five staff of Bizmate Nigeria Ltd were availed various salary plus loans totaling N146,633,000 based on categorization of the company carried out by Andrea Okpalangwu, a staff of FCMB. The categorization provided by Andrea Okpalangwu showed that the company had a turnover of N1.2 billion in 2011 and over N900 million in the financial year end of 2010. She claimed Bizmate Energy provided the documents used for the categorization.

(3) According to the letter headed paper of Bizmate Nigeria Ltd. the head office is situated at 2, Obafemi Awolowo Road,by Mobil Filling station Utako, Abuja office at Plot 21, Obafemi Awolowo Road, Utako, and Port Harcourt is at 26, Psychiatric road Port Harcourt their website is www.bizmate.com.ng, while names of the key personnel of the company as listed on the letter headed paper are as follows: Otunba Adekunle Bada- Chairman; Adedipe Iyiola-MD; and Durojaiye Olubukola-Director.

The GSM telephone numbers on the letter headed paper were switched off. FCMB  also said it did not get through to any of the forty-five staff of the company that were granted the facilities as their telephone numbers were also switched off, the remaining two did not pick  their call when the bank called their numbers.

FCMB further stated that their two accused staff Andrea Okpalangwu and Hadishatu Sule told the bank that none of the Fourty-Five customers that were availed the salary Plus loan has ever visited the bank and that account opening forms and supporting documentation were completed in the supposed customers’ premises and brought back to the bank by the accounting officers, Andrea and Hadishatu.

After the accounts were opened, the cheque books, ATM cards and Pin mailers of the forty-five customers were all collected from the bank by the account officers (Andrea and Hadishatu) and supposedly delivered to the customers at the office of Bizmate. All the acknowledgments for the receipts of the documents were brought back to the bank by these staff too. There were no independent checks to establish the genuiness of these collection and the delivery.

The categorization of the company was carried out by Andrea. There was no evidence that any other staff independently verified the existence of the company’s registered address at Abuja before the facility was availed. Andrea introduced the company to the bank and all efforts to locate the company’s Abuja head office during the course of the investigation have  proved abortive, making it rather odd for a company doing a yearly turnover of over a billion naira, the bank asserted.

FCMB’s visit to the company’s Lagos office also revealed that there was no business activity at the Lekki Phase1 liaison office.

An ex-staff of FCMB claimed he was about renting the Bizmate Office space in preparation for his exit plan from the bank to start his own business when Andrea persuaded him to allow his fiancee coming from abroad to pay for the office. Thereafter Andrea paid N1.4 million into his account to get the office for Bizmate Energy.

It was also discovered that at the point of requesting for the facilities none of the customers were invited or visited the account officer. The loan applications were all filed outside and later brought back to the bank by Andrea and Hadishatu. There was no independent verification of the authenticity of the documents submitted for the facilities while the salary plus loans avail the staff of Bizmate Energy compay were not serviced.

Consequently, FCMB pleaded that the Commissioner of Police in charge of Special Fraud Unit ‘D’ Department, Force Criminal Investigation Department, Milverton, Ikoyi, Lagos should conduct a thorough investigation into the activities of Andrea Okpalangwu and Hadishatu Sule to identify the persons to whom the salary loans were granted, and investigate the real business of the promoters of Revue World Resources Limited and Bizmate Energy towards establishing the existence of persons who are supposed to be workers in the companies.

After an investigation by police detectives from the Special Fraud Unit, three different criminal charges were filed against Andrea Chizoba Okpalangwu. The charges border on conspiracy and stealing.

In all the charges filed before a Federal High Court in Lagos by police prosecuting officer, Frank Emerho from Special  Fraud Unit, it was alleged that Andrea Chizoba Okpalangwu,with Olakunle Wakajaiye, Blessing Gbajide, Alicia Onwuka, Ose Ekisola, Uche Okolie, Olusegun Oladimeji, and other Bizmate Nigeria Limited staff now at lage with intent to defraud opened account number 077984013 for Revue World Resources Ltd with forty -five staff of bizmate Nigeria Ltd, which she used same and stole N146,633,000 belonging to First City Monument Bank Plc and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under sections 390 and 419 of the criminal code Act Cap C38 Volume 4, Laws of the Federation, 2004.

The accused who pleaded not guilty to the charges when he was arraigned before the court was admitted to bail.

Meanwhile, another Federal High Court  in Lagos has adjourned till 5 October this year the trial of First City Monument Bank and one of its managers Rosemary Usifor alleged to have swindled a retired police officer.

In a one count amended criminal charge filed before the court by police prosecutor from Special  Faud Unit, Mr Effiong Asuquo, it was stated thus: “That you Fisrt City Monument Bank Plc and Rosemary Usifor then the branch manager of Oke Arin branch on or about the year 2011 in Lagos within the juridiction of the Federal High Court, fraudulently and with intent to defraud, forged a letter/application to withdraw with the said forged letter/application,withdrew the sum of N30 million from a fixed deposit account domiciled at Awolowo Road branch of First City Monument Bank Plc belonging to Deputy Inspector General of Police Archibong Nkanga (retired), a customer of the bank and thereby commited an offence punishable under section 1 (2)of the miscellaneous offences Act, Laws of the Federation.