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CBN special investigator rejects Lemo’s request to reschedule meeting

The Office of the Special Central Bank of Nigeria Investigator has rejected a request by the Chairman of Titan Trust Bank Limited, Babatunde Lemo, for rescheduling the December 28, 2023, meeting with investigators till January 7.

The investigator warned that the failure of Lemo and other major shareholders of TTB to attend today’s meeting may lead to the forfeiture of their shareholding and interests in Titan Trust Bank and Union Bank Nigeria Plc.

This was contained in a letter to the TTB chairman dated December 27, 2023, and signed by the Head of Operations, Office of the Special Investigator, Eloho Okpoziakpo, a Deputy Commissioner of Police.

The letter was in response to a letter from Lemo’s lawyer seeking a shift of today’s meeting until January.

The investigator also turned down a proposal by Lemo that the major shareholders of Titan Trust Bank, Mr Cornelius Vink and Rahul Savara, should be given seven days to prove their purported ownership of TTB and Union Bank of Nigeria or forfeit the shares to the Federal Government.

The Special Investigator, Jim Obazee, had summoned Lemo, a former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, in connection with the acquisition of Union Bank of Nigeria Plc by TTB.

The TTB chairman was directed to report to the Department of Force Intelligence opposite the Force headquarters, Shehu Shagari Way, Abuja, on Thursday (today), where he will be grilled by a team of detectives probing the UBN acquisition.

Lemo was further instructed to come along with Vink and Savara to meet with the team of special investigators.

Obazee stated in his investigation report that some persons were used as proxies by a former CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, to set up Titan Trust Bank and acquire Union Bank, all from ill-gotten wealth.

However, Lemo, in a letter by his lawyer, G. Elias, dated December 27, requested a shift of the meeting with investigators as he was away from Nigeria.

The letter, which was signed by Prof. Gbolahan Elias, SAN, read in part, “Unfortunately, both Mr Tunde Lemo and the two largest ultimate investors in the banks (Mr. Cornelius Vink; Mr. 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.

“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 morning for your kind review. The individual invitees and the Banks re-iterate their willingness and readiness to co-operate with your good selves in your important work.”

The investigator dismissed the request for a postponement of the meeting with the TTB major shareholders, noting that Lemo had earlier agreed to attend today’s meeting.

The letter noted, “Reference is made to the law firm of G.ELIAS letter dated 27th December 2023 in response to the Special Investigator’s invitation to you via a letter with reference number CR:3000/TSI/ABJ/VOL.1/69 dated 24th December 2023.

“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 28th December 2023 and also proposed that Mr Cornelius Vink and Rahul Savara be given seven days to prove their purported ownership of Titan Trust Bank and Union Bank of Nigeria or forfeit the shares to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

“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.

“We 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 the Department of State Service or anywhere else before now.

“In fact, Cornelius Vink and Rahul Savara have never presented themselves to the Special Investigator since 28th August 2023 when they were first invited for interview.’’

The Special Investigator informed the TTB chairman that documents submitted through proxies will not be accepted “as Mr Cornelius Vink, Mr Rahul Savara and your good self will be required to speak to whatever document(s)/information you present during the meeting.”

The letter added, ‘’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.

Kindly note that the conditions on paragraphs 6 to 8 in our earlier letter to you with reference number CR:3000/TSI/ABJ/VOL. 1/69 dated 24th December 2023 remain effective and shall be triggered if you or Messrs Vink and Savara fail to attend the meeting as scheduled.”

Obazee, who was appointed special investigator in July 2023, submitted his final report tagged, ‘Report of the Special Investigation on CBN and Related Entities (Chargeable offences)’ to the Presidency on December 20.

In two separate reports on the acquisition of UBN and Keystone Bank submitted to President Bola Tinubu on December 20, Obazee also revealed that Emefiele used proxies to acquire Keystone Bank without evidence of payment.

SourcePUNCH

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