The team of the Special Investigator has issued a fresh invitation to the chairman of Titan Trust Bank, Tunde Lemo to appear before it on December 28 to update his statement with it following publications in some newspapers that were considered offensive to the federal government.
Following the publication that the Federal government had secured documents and investigation reports will lead to the forfeiture of Titan Trust Bank and Union Bank based on Jim Obazee’s report of the investigations into the acquisition of Union Bank and Keystone Bank in which he accused that former Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele used proxies to acquire Union Bank for Titan Trust Bank Limited, as well as Keystone Bank without any evidence of payment.
“We have completed our investigation on this acquisition and have also held meetings with the relevant parties except for Mr. Cornelis Vink, who is currently hospitalised in Switzerland’, said Obazee’s report.
“Otherwise, we are on the verge of recovering these two banks for the federal government,” Obazee reportedly said.
Titan Trust Bank in a statement issued by its Corporate Communications Department that the acquisition was conducted in the most professional, open, and transparent bidding process, adding that the deal was funded by a combination of debt of $300 million and an additional equity injection of about $190 million, which was contributed by TTB’s two major shareholders – Magna International DMCC and Luxis International DMCC.
Click to read: Letter to Chairman of Titan Trust Bank, Babatunde Lemo
Besides, TTB noted that it sought and obtained all necessary regulatory approvals from its primary regulator – the CBN, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX), and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), among others. Following TTB’s acquisition of 93.41 per cent controlling interest in Union Bank on June 1, 2022, the statement noted that a change in control was effected with the dissolution of the former board and the reconstitution of a new board with a new leadership.
“Titan Trust Bank engaged reputable firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers Limited (PWC) for the financial due diligence, Drey Law Practice (DLP) for the legal due diligence, Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) UK as Legal Advisers and Citibank London as Financial/Transaction Advisers.
While the bank stated that it made all representation to the investigation team during the special investigation, the board and management of TTB and Union Bank noted further that, “There is no illegality or fraud in the acquisition as alleged. We insist that this acquisition can vie for one of the most professional and transparent in the history of this country,” TTB said.
On allegations relating to the ownership of TTB, it stated that the board and management provided the special investigators with the share ownership structure in TTB, including the holdings of Magna International DMCC and Luxis International DMCC owned by Mr Rahul Savara and Mr Cornelius Vink.
Click to read: Letter to Cornelius Vink, Chairman of TGI
“These individuals are prominent global entrepreneurs and have thriving businesses in Nigeria and several countries around the world. The shareholding structure is also verifiable at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).“Therefore, we urge our customers, shareholders, and stakeholders to remain calm as we do everything legal to ensure that the current misunderstanding is clarified,” the bank said.
Tunde Lemo was said to have okayed this publication in some newspapers that contradicted his confessional statement of August 2023 and, as such, he is to appear at the Department of Force Intelligence of the Force Headquarters in Abuja together with Cornelius Vink and Rahul Savara on Thursday, December 28 in connection with Titan Trust Bank and the acquisition of Union Bank.
The invitation that was contained in a December 24 letter referenced CR:3000/TSI/ABJ/Vol.1/69 and signed by the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Eloho Okpoziakpo, the Head of Operations, Office of the Special Investigator is the second to Lemo, the chairman of the bank who had earlier been interrogated by the team.
Click to read: Letter from Union Bank
The letter entitled, “Re: CBN Investigation Activities, Invitation For A Follow Up Meeting With The Special Investigator”, is also the second to Vink, the chairman of TGI, and to Savara, the two shareholders who have refused to honour the invitation to the team since 28th August 2023.
The second invitation to the three is also to further ensure beyond reasonable doubt that the federal government has given a fair hearing to the three on the TTB and Union Bank transactions.
The two were earlier invited via a 28th August 2023 letter signed by Ojogbe Reuben in which they were asked to provide some documents including the company registration, and the details of ownership, shareholding structure, profile, and particulars of directors of Luxis DMCC located at Unit 1141, DMCC Business Centre, Level No.1, Jewellery & Gemplex 3, Dubai, UAE.
They were also asked to bring along with them, documents including the company registration, and the details of ownership, shareholding structure, profile, and particulars of directors of Magna International DMCC located at Unit 1024, DMCC Business Centre, Level No.1, Jewellery & Gemplex 3, Dubai, UAE.
While the two have yet to honour the invitation, Vink was excused from the meeting via a September 1, 2023, letter titled, “CBN Investigation Activities: Invitation For a Meeting With the Special Investigator”, signed by Somuyiwa Sonubi, the Company Secretary of Union Bank who said that Vink was out of Nigeria on medical grounds.
“We write in response to your letter dated 28th August 2023 on the above subject matter and to submit the documents/information requested for in printed and electronic formats for ease of your review and analysis”.
Furthermore, and with all due respect to your office, we wish to inform you that Mr. Cornelius Vink is currently out of the country on medical grounds. Given the short notice period in the said letter and Mr. Vink’s medical condition, he is unable to make the appointment as proposed and craves your indulgence in this regard. Please find attached copies of Mr. Vink’s medical report for your kind review”.
“Messrs. Vink and Savara will be available for the meeting as soon as they are in Nigeria which we hope will be soon”, stated Sonubi in his 1st September letter to the Special Investigator.
However, Okpoziakpo’s letter noted that the publication said to have been okayed by Lemo in some newspapers seems contrary to the statement by him and others connected with the transactions under caution at the Department of State Service (DSS) in August 2023.
“In the said newspapers, you referred to both Cornelius Vink and Rahul Savara as “prominent global entrepreneurs and having thriving businesses in Nigeria. In your email to email to the Special Investigator, as well as your earlier discussion with the Special Investigator, both on December 24th, you suggested that Cornelius Vink and Rahul Savara be invited to provide clarification on their share ownership and be given seven days to make such clarification, failure of which they will forfeit their purported shareholdings to the federal government”. This seems to have been the reason for the fresh invitation.
Okpoziakpo further noted “We are surprised at your request about these two shareholders. They were given this opportunity via a letter dated 28th August 2023. Instead of honouring the invitation and providing the requested documents, we received a letter from the company secretary of Union Bank, Somuyiwa Sonubi, dated 1st September, informing the Special Investigator that Mr. Cornelius Vink was out of the country on medical grounds and that both Messrs. Vink and Savara will be available for the meeting as soon as they are in Nigeria which will be soon”.
“Up until this offensive defence that you put in the public domain, the Special Investigator has neither heard from them nor received the requested documents”, Okpoziakpo stated, as he invited Lemo to re-appear with the two shareholders with all those documents that were hitherto requested.
He warned against their failure to honour the invitation and provide/defend the documents requested as such will be construed as their decision to forfeit their purported shareholding in Titan Trust and Union Bank.
“Kindly note that if Messrs. Cornelius Vink and Rahul Savara refuse to attend this meeting and provide/defend the requested documents/information, it will be construed that they have decided to forfeit their purported shareholders in TTB and Union Bank of Nigeria irrespective of which vehicle that they are using to own the purported shares”.
The letter also went on to say, “Should you also refuse to attend the meeting to provide additional statement to your earlier statement made in August 2023, it will be construed that you misled the Nigerian public with your reaction in the Punch Newspapers which has gained wide publicity in both electronic and print media”.
The trio are on December 28 expected to provide to the team, the documentation that led to the licensing of Titan Trust Bank and the acquisition of controlling shareholding of Union Bank of Nigeria by Luxis and Magna, proof of funds, international verifiable bank statements (From the incorporation of the entities to date) and the shareholders that gave interest-free loans to the two entities separately (name, nationality, source, of the fund, proof of such funds, bank statements) as well as the relationship of the entities with Andrew Chukwudi Ojei, Jerome Olagunju Shogbon, Rahul Savara, Winston Odeh, Adaeze Udensi, Ekene Samuel Loius, Godwin Emefiele, Macombe Omoile, Tunde Lemo, Mudasir Amry, Faruk Gumel, Oluremi Oni, Vink Corporation Middle Est FCZ (together with the details of the shareholder that also gave Vink Corporation interest-free loan.
They are also to provide details of how Trust receipts from (Standard Chartered Bank), Zenith Nigeria Plc, and Zenith Bank (UK) were involved in the entire arrangement and also, the minutes of the board meetings, copy of the audited financial statements and management letter that arose from the audit of the financial statements of the two entities listed in (1) above as well as those of TTB and UBN from 2018 to date.
Lemo with the two shareholders are also to provide the details of any forbearance received from the CBN for UBN (before acquisition by TTB) and if they claimed that they did not know, they are directed to then come along with anyone who knows about it (with evidence), and also, the details of the loan capital from Afreximbank (Egypt), collaterals thereto and the involvement of the CBN in the entire arrangement.
Also requested are the details of any foreign exchange dealings that transacted with the CBN as retail or wholesale or facilitator with TGI, TTB, Luxis, Magna and other related entities, no matter how remotely connected and also, any other documents that can assist the Special Investigator in arriving at an informed decision on the investigation of TTB, UBN, CBN and any person of interest in the entire arrangement.