CBN investigator refuses TTB Chairman’s request to shift acquisition probe


The Office of the Special Central Bank of Nigeria
Investigator has rejected the Chairman of Titan Trust Bank Limited, Babatunde
Lemo’s request to reschedule 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 Thursday’s scheduled 2 pm meeting may lead
to the forfeiture of their shareholding and interests in Titan Trust Bank and
Union Bank Nigeria Plc.


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


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.


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


Recall that two days ago, the Special
Investigator probing the Central Bank of Nigeria, Jim Obazee, had summoned
Lemo, a former deputy governor of CBN, concerning 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 had, in his investigation interim report, fingered
some persons who 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.


Consequently, the investigative team summoned the top
management of TTB over the indictment.


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


The letter, which Prof. Gbolahan Elias, SAN signed, 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 will
not be in Nigeria before the second week of January 2024. They will honour the
invitations fully soon after they come in”.


However, the special investigator rejected Lemo’s request,
describing it as an obstruction of investigation.


In a letter, it noted, “Reference is made to the law firm of
G.ELIAS letter dated December 27 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 December 24 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 December 28 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 his duties.


“We want to put it on record that neither you (Babatunde
Lemo), Cornelius Vink, or 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 August 28 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 December 28
2023, by 2 pm prompts in respect to the matter under investigation and for
which you had earlier made a statement.


“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
December 24 2023, remain effective and shall be triggered if you or Messrs Vink
and Savara fail to attend the meeting as scheduled.”


Recall Obazee, appointed as a special investigator by
President Bola Tinubu to probe CBN and related entities 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.


The report, among other revelations, faulted the acquisition
of UBN and Keystone Bank; it also revealed that Emefiele used proxies to
acquire Keystone Bank without evidence of payment.


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