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Union Bank Controversy: CBN Investigator rejects request of Titan Trust Bank investors

Chairma of Titan Trust Bank(TTB) Mr. Tunde Lemo

Tunde Lemo and the two major investors in Titan Trust Bank and Union Bank had requested to delay their appearance before the Special Investigator.

The Special Investigator appointed by President Bola Tinubu to probe the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Jim Obazee, has rejected a request by the Chairman of Titan Trust Bank (TTB), Tunde Lemo, and the two major investors in the bank to delay their appearance before the investigator until the second week of January 2024.

PREMIUM TIMES reported that Mr Obazee on 24 December summoned Mr Lemo, Cornelius Vink and Rahul Savara to appear before his team of investigators on Thursday over TTB’s acquisition of Union Bank in 2022.

The special investigator, in his report submitted to President Tinubu on 20 December, said he found that former Governor of CBN, Godwin Emefiele, used ill-gotten wealth to acquire Union Bank and Keystone Bank through proxies.

Former CBN Governor Godwin Emiefele

But after Mr Lemo denied the allegation concerning the acquisition of Union Bank by TTB, the office of the Special Investigator asked the former deputy governor of the CBN and the two others to appear for further clarifications on the controversy.

However, in a letter dated 27 December, a law firm representing both TTB and Union Bank, said the three men are currently outside the country, urging that the appointment be rescheduled.

“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 cooperate with your good selves in your important work,” the lawyers said in the letter.

But in a swift response through a letter of the same date signed by its Head of Operations, Eloho Okpoziakpo, the office of the special investigator insisted on the scheduled meeting, warning of the consequences of the three men failing to honour their invitation.

“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 7 (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 Department of State Service (DSS) 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 also directs that you should be informed that documents submitted through proxies shall not be accepted as Mr Cornelius Vink, Mr Rahul Savara and your goodself will be required to speak to whatever document(s)/information you present during the meeting.

“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 remains effective and shall be triggered if you or Messrs Vink and Savara fail to attend the meeting as scheduled,” the letter reads.

Jim Obazee

In its earlier letter of 24 December to Mr Lemo, the office of the special investigator had warned of the consequences of failing to cooperate with the investigators, which it referred to in the latest letter as “conditions.”

The office had previously warned: “Kindly note that if Messrs Cornelius Vink and Rahul Savara refused to attend this meeting and provide/defend the requested documents/information, it will be construed that they have decided to forfeit their purported shareholdings in TTB and Union Bank of Nigeria; irrespective of which vehicle that they are using to own the purported shares.

“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 today which has gained wide publicity in both electronic and print media.”

Premium Times 

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