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Wema Bank in N13bn Forex scam

Posted by By PATRICK ASONYE on 2008/07/30 | Views: 2082 |

Wema Bank in N13bn Forex scam


The integrity of a bank executive is now at stake following the whirlwind of foreign exchange scandal that is swirling around him and threatening to rock the financial institution.

The integrity of a bank executive is now at stake following the whirlwind of foreign exchange scandal that is swirling around him and threatening to rock the financial institution.
At the centre of the alleged scam is Alhaji Nurudeen Fagbenro, Executive Director, Risk Management, of Wema Bank Plc. He is alleged to have illegally approved a forex transaction of over N13billion between the bank and Oyo State government using Matel, a Lagos-based Bureau de Change, as the conduit pipe to feather their own nest.

Also fingered in the deal are Mr. Festus Ajani, External Director representing Oyo State on the board of the bank and three others whose identities Sunday Sun was unable to establish before going to press.
Insiders who blew the whistle on the fraud expressed the fear that "if it (sharp practice) continues unabated, the bank might collapse prematurely."

How the deal was hatched
Sunday Sun learnt that sometime in February this year, the Federal Government reportedly remitted $112, 796, 720.28 to Wema Bank in favour of Oyo State government. The money was the State’s share of proceeds from the sale of excess crude.
And to use the fund, the state government needed to convert it to local currency – Naira.
Wema Bank reportedly purchased it from the state at the rate of N117.50 to a dollar. Ideally, the bank ought to have credited Oyo state account to the tune of N13, 253, 614, 632.90. But documents relating to the transaction, which Sunday Sun stumbled on at the weekend, shows that some officials of the bank may have connived with their soul mates within the Oyo State government to swindle the state by remitting only N13, 062, 988.63 prompting raised eyebrows about the N190, 626, 457.27 differential.
The shortfall of N180, 474, 702.45, was allegedly siphoned through Matel, a Lagos-based Bureau de Change, after remitting only a paltry N10, 151, 704.82 to Wema Bank as its "transaction margin."

The scam
However, those who are privy to the mechanics of such transaction argue that the bank ought to have raked in nothing less than N190, 626, 457.27, not N10, 151, 704.82. In fact, they also insist that Matel has absolutely nothing to do with the transaction, which they say was "purely between Wema Bank and Oyo State government."
They queried: "What was the basis of the transfer of N180, 474, 752.54 into the account of Matel Bureau de Change from a transaction that was basically done between Wema and Oyo?"
Thus, their critics pointedly allege that Fagbenro and co might have forged documents with which they moved the money using Matel as conduit pipe.

Executive Director in the mix
Another dimension to the scandal is the argument that Fagbenro does not have the powers to approve a transaction of that magnitude.

Bank’s position
At the weekend, several calls made to Fagbenro’s MTN mobile line were unanswered.
And determined to hear the Bank’s side of the story, Sunday Sun contacted its Public Relations Officer (PRO), Mr. Tunde Olofintila on his MTN mobile line in the hope that he would offer some explanation. But he said he was not in the office hence he could not say anything. However, he requested a meeting with Sunday Sun reporter in his (Bank) office on Monday July 28.
Reminded that the story was scheduled for Sunday, 24 hours earlier, he asked: "Then what do you want me to do? I said let’s see on Monday. You can hear from the way I am sounding that I am not well; I’ve been down…"
Told that Alhaji Fagbenro would not pick calls made to his MTN number, Olofintila counseled: "Keep calling him, he might pick your call."

Oyo State government
Unlike Fagbenro whose phone rang several times but he did not answer, calls made to the two mobile numbers (MTN and Glo) of Mr. Dotun Oyelade, Special Assistant (Media and Strategy) to Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala, failed to connect.

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