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Forex scandal: Emefiele faces fresh charges as Dangote denies wrongdoing

•EX-CBN gov may face multiple money laundering charges, anti-graft agency probes corporate organisations, individuals
•Commission says investigation independent of Obazee’s report

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has written to over 85 entities comprising corporate organisations and individuals over an ongoing investigation into alleged fraudulent foreign exchange allocations under the embattled former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele.

It was gathered that Emefiele might face an amended charge to include new discoveries in the ongoing probe of forex transactions under his probe.

The anti-graft agency has also summoned senior officials of the affected entities and mandated them to provide detailed documents of their foreign exchange transactions covering the last nine years.

Though Sunday PUNCH could not independently verify the details of the 85 other companies affected by the ongoing investigation, however, the Dangote Group and BUA Plc top the list as gathered by our correspondent on Saturday.

A top EFCC source revealed that the commission’s investigation was comprehensive, deeper, and encompassing, and independent of the report of the special investigator appointed by President Bola Tinubu to probe the CBN, Jim Obazee.

The source disclosed exclusively to Sunday PUNCH that Emefiele would face fresh charges by the EFCC over the ongoing foreign exchange probe.

Operatives of the EFCC had on Thursday stormed the headquarters of Dangote Industries Limited in Ikoyi, Lagos, and the BUA Towers located at PC 32, Churchgate Street, Victoria Island, Lagos State, in furtherance of the ongoing investigation into the alleged abuse of the foreign exchange allocations by Emefiele.

While officials of the Dangote Group confirmed the raid and stated that they were cooperating with the anti-graft agency by supplying relevant documents, BUA insisted that its offices were not raided by EFCC operatives.

A top EFCC official revealed that the agency was probing the preferential foreign exchange allocations allegedly made by Emefiele in defiance of extant financial rules and regulations and the CBN Act.

The official claimed, “The EFCC is investigating over 85 entities, which include companies and individuals. The probe has extended beyond 52 entities, and I can confirm that the Dangote Group and BUA Plc are part of the 85 entities under probe over the preferential foreign exchange allocations made by the former CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, in defiance of extant financial rules and regulations and in disregard of the CBN Act.

“Some officials of those companies and individuals connected with the allocations have been invited by the commission for questioning, and all the affected entities have been asked to provide their financial documents from 2014 to 2023. We discovered that those allocations were not approved by former President Muhammadu Buhari, so it was more of a means for the former CBN governor and his cronies to launder money through forex transactions and Bureau De Change operators.

“But it should be noted that our investigation is comprehensive; it is deeper and encompassing, and absolutely independent of the CBN investigator, Obazee’s report. The charges against the former CBN governor will most likely be amended as there have been more discoveries from the forex probe.”

The EFCC source added, “The discoveries in the recent probe into forex transactions involving many individuals and organisations show that the former governor of the CBN will face amended charges soon. Lawyers of the commission are working on that and as soon as that is done, Emefiele will answer to the charges.

“We have found out how he used his position to help friends and acquaintances, business associates, relations and others.

“The charges against him are plenty. It is a pity that such a highly placed man used his office the way he did it.

“He is also going to face other charges like money laundering, abuse of office, even abuse of office may involve the declaration of assets.”

Sunday PUNCH reports that following the siege by EFCC operatives to Dangote and BUA’s offices on Thursday, the operatives went away with documents on the firms’ forex transactions.

Our correspondent gathered that the search by the anti-graft operatives in both offices commenced around 3pm and lasted several hours.

When contacted over the latest development on Saturday, the spokesperson for the EFCC, Dele Oyewale, declined comments.

“I can’t speak on that,” Oyewale said.

Saturday PUNCH reported that the EFCC operatives carted away some documents during the search on Thursday, but the documents did not cover all the transactions, hence the decision to summon the officials of the firms to bring the documents to Abuja on Tuesday.

But a highly placed EFCC official said senior executives of the company had been mandated to supply the commission with what he called “detailed and unambiguous documents on the demands by the commission.”

It was gathered that the officials were being expected at the agency’s office on Tuesday.

“Yes, they (Dangote officials) asked for time to enable them to get all the necessary documents, which was granted. The idea is not to be seen to be witch-hunting anyone. What the commission wants is to get evidence and details of how government funds were allocated and that is all,” the EFCC official, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media on the development, said.

Dangote said in an advertorial that on December 6, 2023, the EFCC requested the details of all forex transactions allocated to the company by the CBN from 2014 and it responded by acknowledging receipt of the letter while seeking clarification on the subsidiaries or companies within the group that they required information on as well as additional time to compile and properly present the documents.

It added, “However, the EFCC did not provide the clarification sought and also did not honour our request for an extension and insisted on receiving the complete set of documents within the limited timeframe. Despite this constraint, we assured the EFCC of our commitment to providing the information and pledged to share documents in batches as we complete the compilation.

“On January 4, 2024, our team delivered the first batch of documents to the EFCC. However, officers of the EFCC did not accept the documents, insisting on visiting our offices to collect the same set of documents directly.”

The company added that while its representatives were still at the EFCC office to deliver the documents, a team of the anti-graft agency’s operatives visited its office to demand for the same documents in a manner that appeared to be designed to cause embarrassment to it.

“We must emphasise that, to our knowledge, no accusations of wrongdoing have been made against any company within our group. At present, we are only responding to a request for information to assist the EFCC with their ongoing investigation,” the company added.

Before the raid, Dangote Industries had in November 2023 refuted allegations that it was involved in forex malpractices and money laundering involving $3.4bn allegedly facilitated by Emefiele.

The company denied the claims that the money was channelled to its non-Nigerian subsidiaries, prompting illicit financial flows and round-tripping.

Dangote noted that its investment undertakings were sourced from the interbank market, with all transactions supported by Letters of Credit in line with international standards.

During the raid, the operatives ransacked offices and carted away several financial documents related to forex allocations to the group from 2014 to June 2023, when Emefiele was suspended from office by President Bola Tinubu.

It was further gathered that the commission had asked the 51 firms under probe to submit Form A and Form M detailing the forex allocations to them between 2014 and June 2023.

But while some companies complied with the directive, several others were said to have asked for time to get the documents.

The Special Investigator on the CBN and Related Entities, Jim Obazee, had earlier reported to the President how Emefiele allegedly lodged public funds in foreign currencies in no fewer than 593 bank accounts in the United States, United Kingdom, and China without the approval of the apex bank’s board of directors and the CBN Investment Committee.

Obazee found that the ex-CBN governor allegedly lodged £543, 482,213 in fixed deposits in UK banks without authorisation, adding that he allegedly manipulated the naira exchange rate and committed fraud in the e-Naira project.

The investigator in a report submitted to the President on December 20, 2023, recommended that Emefiele, who is being prosecuted for alleged N1.2bn procurement fraud, should face fresh charges over the handling of the naira redesign policy and alleged illegal issuance of currency under Section 19 of the CBN Act.

He also recommended that the ex-CBN governor should be prosecuted alongside Tunde Sabiu, a former aide and nephew to former President Muhammadu Buhari, and 12 top directors of the CBN.

SourcePUNCH

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