The commitment of Stanbic IBTC bank, a member of the Stanbic Group to increase the Nigerian content in the oil and gas sector has come under serious questioning of industry watchers following alleged shady dealings capable of soiling the reputation of the bank, The Premier reports.
This became evidence as the board and management of the bank are seriously battling to extricate themselves of allegation of conspiracy, forgery, unauthorized withdrawal, diversion of funds and stealing totaling N489.2million levied against the bank and one of its management staff by Lonestar Drilling Nigeria Limited, an oil and gas company.
The company had through a petition to the Special Fraud Unit (SFU) dated 11th March 2013 written by its lawyer, Barrister Dapo Oluyede sought the assistance of the Unit to investigate professional misconduct allegedly perpetrated by Stanbic IBTC Bank, the company’s account officer and some indicted directors of the company.
It was gathered that the founder Lonestar Drilling Nigeria Limited, Late Chief Henry Idisi took some loan facilities from a consortium of banks namely; African Export import Bank (AFREEXIM), Standard Bank of South Africa, Stanbic IBTC and Diamond bank for the financing of two oil rigs which it intended to buy to service a contract with Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) for its upstream operation code named rigs 203 and 204 in 2006. The loan deal proved lucrative for both parties as Lonestar was expected to make a daily turnover of $240,000 from the two oil rigs. Also it was agreed that the daily proceeds be paid into Stanbic IBTC account to service the loan facilities.
The loan servicing appeared to be moving smoothly until three years later when Chief Idisi took ill and later died in November 2009 in the United State of America. The widow of the deceased Chief (Mrs.) Margaret Idisi who acknowledge and understanding of the loan had to observe the mandatory one year mourning period in honour of her late husband. However, one year was enough for the account officer and Stanbic IBTC bank to fraudulent sell off the company, divert the company’s fund and sell off some of its properties through the active connivance of some directors of the company. This they did by allegedly forging the signature of the deceased founder for an extend loan agreement.
Curiously, the bank and indeed the account officer, failed to provide document of the entire loan deal and records of their deductions from the company’s coffers in servicing the loan. However, an audit of the company account carried out by Pedabo Auditing Company indicted directors and board members of the company which culminated in their eventual sack by the Chairperson, Chief (Mrs.) Idisi upon her resumption as the CEO of the company. The decision to terminate the appointment of the indicted directors was communicated to the bank. But in a move that smacks conspiracy the bank management still paid the indicted former directors their monthly salary a year after they were sacked.
The bank management were said to have insisted that they would only abide by the laid down instructions and account mandate agreement signed by the known signatories of the company to the bank even If they were indicted by the audit report of Pedabo in 2011 and subsequently sacked.
As if that was not worse enough, the bank management allegedly supervised the sale of the company to one a phony company and appointed one of the indicted directors, Francis Atoju as the new MD of the company. Worse still, the bank in connivance with the indicted former directors also reportedly sold the company’s Ocean vessel (MV Kinklock) bought at a cost of N200million for a paltry N100million just as it also sold two heavy generators of the company bought for N10mmiliion each for N50million each.
The gravity of the allegation prompted SFU detective to swing into action by inviting the account officer and the former MD of the company, Engr. Francis Amene for questioning while two other, John Esegbuya and Ben Agadagba are still at large. After an intensive investigation, the detective have enough evidence to establish a prime facie case of conspiracy, forgery, diversion of funds, fraudulent/unauthorized withdrawal and stealing against the account officer, Stanbic IBTC Bank, Luqman Agboola, Engr. Francis Anene, John Esegbuye, Ben Agadagba and others.
Police sources informed our correspondent that the interrogation of the account officer was quite revealing. The principal suspect purportedly confessed in his statement under caution to have received some document from the company management and the Chairperson of Lonestar Drilling Nigeria Limited but added that the bank management did not honour it because there was no board resolution removing the former directors at the time the letter was sent to the bank. He claimed that all he did was to take instructions from the management and the legal department in line with the mandate given to the bank. He also claimed that the sacked gave the mandate to sell the Ocean vessel and the giant generators.
However, the banker may have laced his pocket with money realize from understand deals inimical to the status of a senior management staff of an international bank. He purportedly told his interrogators he maintains two foreign accounts with Barclays International Bank and Citibank, New York. He also confessed to own two bank accounts domiciled at Stanbic IBTC and Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) where fraudulent transfers from Lonestar Drilling Nigeria limited were lodged. His lodgments into the latter account that he transferred a sum of N14.3million on 1st September 2009. He also transferred the sum of N75million into the GTB account on 20th May 2008.
The account officer allegedly transfer into his GTB’s account also include N59million on the 9th June 2008, N9million on 2nd June 2008 with yet transfer another lodgment of N50million same day. The banker also deposited N30million into his account on 22nd May 2008 while on 13th March 2009, he deposited N11million. Source say that the principal suspect invested the total sum of N248.3million with GTB using fake identity as the photograph in the account document does not bear his true resemblance.
Furthermore, the banker is said to own two private oil companies registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), 3 bedroom flat at UPDC Estate, Lekki and another 6 bedroom flat at Ikorodu as well as landed properties at Olambe, Mowe and mortgage property in London.
The SFU has therefore slammed a nine-count charge against Stanbic IBTC Bank and the banker bordering on conspiracy, forgery, unauthorized withdrawal/diversion of fund and stealing at the Federal High Court, Lagos. But in a brief chat with the premier over the weekend, the principal suspect maintained his innocent even as he rubbished claims that various sums of money were found in his account.
While noting that the matter is presently in court, the banker however referred further enquiries on the matter to his lawyer, barrister Biodun Aikhomu from Olanihun Ajayi LP, who declared that the allegation against his client amount to nothing “as nothing can be proved against the accused in court”
According to him, “the truth of the matter is that Lonestar took a loan from a consortium of banks running into $220million in port Harcourt. The banks must recoup their money. The position of the law is different from position of sentiment. The bank cannot go against the mandate given to it by the company. The bank cannot change the mandate because someone is the wife of the owner of the company. Things don’t work like that. The case is in court and we are waiting for them to come and prove their case. We don’t believe in newspaper judgment. My client did his job as required by standard practice.”
Attempt to speak with officials of the bank was not successful. However, one Adewole Ojo, who claimed to be a PR Consultant to the bank responded to enquiry. In an email sent to the Premier dated 19th October 2013, Ojo was not forthcoming with a tangible response.
“Thank you for enquiry regarding Lonestar Drilling Nigeria Limited vs 8 others, including Stanbic IBTC. As you are aware, there is a case on this matter in the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt and this precludes us from commenting on this matter.”We would like to state however that Stanbic IBTC is a responsible corporate citizen, with confidence in the nation’s legal system, which will show when concluded, that we acted appropriately in this matter,” the statement read.
However, at the Federal high court in Lagos, presiding Justice M B Idris discharged the suit for lack of prove against the defendants.