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CBN: Our N8b fraud story

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‘We handed over suspects to EFCC’

BANKERS were shocked yesterday to learn of the N8b currency scam for which no fewer than 22 suspects are to face trial today in Ibadan.

It was the topic of discussions in banking halls, a source told The Nation.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has spoken on the scam in which six of its officials and 16 others from some commercial banks are involved.

The suspects, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alleged, stole and recirculated, defaced and mutilated currencies amounting to N8b.

They include Patience Okoro Eye (Abuja), Afolabi Olufemi (Lagos), Kolawole Babalola (Ibadan), Olaniran Muniru Adeola (Ibadan), Fatai Yusuf Adekunle (Head, Security, CBN, (Ibadan) and Ilori Adekunle Sunday (Akure).

The remaining 16 suspects are from various commercial banks. They were found to have conspired with the CBN executives to swing the heist, the EFCC said.

CBN’s Director, Corporate Communications, Ibrahim Mu’azu, yesterday retraced the events that led the management of the apex bank to hand over the suspects to the EFCC for prosecution.

He said: “As soon as the Bank’s internal investigations concluded beyond reasonable doubt that some wrong doing had occurred, the affected members of staff who are middle-level officers were, depending on gravity of offence, either summarily dismissed or immediately placed on indefinite suspension on 21 October 2014, and all handed over to the EFCC for further investigation and prosecution. The CBN has also conducted a nationwide audit of all 37 branches of the Bank and found that this was an isolated scheme at Ibadan Branch. The Bank will continue to collaborate with the EFCC to ensure that affected CBN staff, as well as their accomplices in some commercial banks, are brought to justice.”

Mu’azu said the scam was unearthed during a routine internal audit of the bank’s cash destruction activities in September 2014. He said the CBN Briquetting Panel comprising Senior Bank Staff from various branches, noticed some anomalies at the Ibadan Branch, and immediately reported this to the Bank’s management.

He said on further investigation ordered by the CBN Governor, it was discovered that a systematic scheme, which had been on for several years, was being run in which mutilated higher denomination notes originally meant for destruction were swapped with lower denomination currencies. This practice known as interleafing, basically labels a box with a higher value than its true content.

Mu’azu said as soon as the bank’s internal investigations concluded beyond reasonable doubt that some wrongdoing had occurred, the affected members of staff, who are middle-level officers, were, depending on gravity of offence, either summarily dismissed or immediately placed on indefinite suspension on 21 October 2014. They were all handed over to the EFCC for further investigation and prosecution.

The CBN has also conducted a nationwide audit of all its 37 branches and found that this was an isolated scheme at Ibadan Branch. Mu’azu said the bank will continue to collaborate with the EFCC to ensure that the affected CBN staff as well as their accomplices in some commercial banks are brought to justice.

An economist, Henry Boyo, said he was not surprised when he heard about the scam, alleging that there are even bigger fraud going on within the CBN which the public take for granted. “It did not surprise me at all. It was expected. What is clear is that the institution of the CBN is fraught with fraud. Whether it is the intervention fund or monetary policy strategy, it is the more you look, the less you see,” he said.

Boyo said the practice whereby the CBN carries out regular mopping up of excess liquidity from the system is in itself questionable. He said over N6 trillion is mopped up from the system annually, and that the one for the first quarter has already been conducted, with N1.5 trillion taken off the system. Commercial banks were paid 10 to 15 per cent interest, which came to about N600 billion profit, he said.

Boyo alleged that the intervention fund running into billions of naira also needed to be examined just like the Polymer note scam.

But another economist, Brown Okorie, said the mopping up of excess liquidity in the system is the statutory function of the CBN, used to bring down inflation and achieve exchange rate stability.

He pointed out that the apex bank had several tools which it could use to control the inflation rate, but emphasised that the best option at the moment would be to reduce the excess liquidity in the system. “The CBN will look at the indicators and decide what tools to use to control the inflation rate, which will all be aimed at reducing excess liquidity in the system,” Okorie said.

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