Wednesday, July 22, 2015 12:55 pm
*In one charge, a manager abused the bank’s salary plus loans scheme and scammed the bank of N146,633,000 million
* In another, a manager stole N30million from the fixed deposit of a retired DIG of police
A federal high court sitting in Lagos south west Ngeria,has adjourned till 30 September the trial of a manager of First City Monument Bank plc Andrea Chizoba Okpalangwu accused of fraud.
According to a petition written to the commissioner of Police Special Fraud Unit, signed by the Head of legal services of the bank Olufemi Adekunle and another lawyer Adewale Fati, 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 Fifteen million Naira from an account in FCMB Revue World Resources Limited company account number 0779848013 to an account in their bank, owned by Bizmates Energy company.
An internal audit by FCMB later revealed startlingly that:
*the alleged staff members of Bizmate Energy maintain 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 account in FCMB.
* 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 N1.2Billion in 2011 and over N900million in the financial year end of 2010. She claimed Bizmate Energy provided the documents used for the categorization.
According to the letter headed paper of Bizmate Nigeria Ltd. the head office is situated at Lekki Phase1 in Lagos. In Abuja, the office was listed to be at Plot 21 Obafemi Awolowo Road, Utako and in Porthacourt at 26,Psychiatric Road. The company’s website was given as www.bizmate.com.ng,while names of the key personnel of the company as listed on the letter headed paper paraded Otunba Adekunle Bada as Chairman,Adedipe Iyiola-MD, Durojaiye Olubukola-Director
When FCMB auditors began checking the elaborate scam, they found that the quoted GSM telephone numbers on the letter headed paper were all switched off.
FCMB auditors also did not get through to any of the forty-five staff of the company that were granted the facilities. While Forty Five of them have their telephone numbers switched off,the remaining two did not pick up their phones when the bank called their numbers.
FCMB further stated that their two accused staff Andrea Okpalangwu and Hadishatu Sule later told the bank that none of the Forty-Five customers that were availed the salary Plus loan had ever visited the bank. They said 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 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 genuineness 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 granted. Andrea introduced the company to the bank and all efforts to locate the company’s Abuja head office during the course of this investigation proved abortive. The bank found this rather odd for a company doing a yearly turnover of over a billion Naira.
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 spouse coming from abroad to pay for the office. Thereafter Andrea paid N1.4million 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 visited the account officer.
The loan application forms were all filled 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 granted the phantom staff of Bizmate Energy company were not serviced.
Consequently FCMB pleaded that The Commissioner of police in charge of Special Fraud Unit ‘D’ Department Force Criminal Investigation Department,Sunday Adewusi House Milverton Ikoyi Lagos to use his good offices to conduct thorough investigation into the activities of Andrea Okpalangwu and Hadishatu Sule towards identifying the persons to whom the salary loans were granted,while in-depth investigation should also be conducted into 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 the probe of the affair by crack Police detectives from the Special Fraud Unit,three different criminal charges were filed against Andrea Chizoba Okpalangwu, with each charge containing four counts of conspiracy and stealing.
In the charges filed before a Federal high court in Lagos by Police Prosecuting officer Frank Emerho from Special Anti 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 staffers now at large with intent to defraud, opened account number 077984013 for Revue World Resources Ltd with Forty -Five staffers of Bizmate Nigeria Ltd, which she used to steal N146,633,000 belonging to First City Monument Bank Plc.
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 also sitting in the division of Federal high court in Lagos south west Nigeria has adjourned till 5 October the trial of First City Monument Bank,and one of its managers, Rosemary Usifor alleged to have swindled a retired Police Officer.
In one count criminal charge filed before the court by Police Prosecutor from Special anti fraud Unit,Mr Effiong Asuquo,it was stated thus “That you First 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 the sum of N30million from a fixed deposit 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 committed an offence punishable under section 1 (2)of the miscellaneous offences Act,Laws of the Federation.