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EFCC Grills Diamond Bank Staff Over Missing Money From Customer's Accounts

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Operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) are allegedly grilling Diamond Bank staff over alleged stealing of money from customer's accounts.

In a letter written to Diamond Bank Plc by Citi Lawyers, solicitors of a company identified as West and Gate (W&G) Limited, they are demanding a refund of the sum of N150 million to their clients. According to the letter, the said sum was illegally deducted by Diamond Bank Plc's officials from monies paid by a telecommunication company to their client.

Furthermore, the letter said failure by the bank to remit the money within seven days of receiving the letter would lead to Citi Lawyers forwarding a petition to the appropriate authorities and instituting legal action in a competent court of law.

The company solicitors, it was gathered, have already filed a petition against the bank with EFCC,  and the anti-graft agency is said to have swung into action.

The drama between Diamond Bank Plc and West and Gate began when the financial institution lost an unsecured loan of N6 billion to Allan Dick West Africa (ADWA) Limited, a telecommunications services firm promoted by Allan Dick Company (ADC), its parent company in United Kingdom in 2007.

Then, having obtained the loan ADWA commenced liquidation without repaying it. However, rather than going after their lost money Diamond Bank Plc took a lion share from N850 million paid to the local contractors of ADWA.

It would be recalled that this is not the first time Diamond Bank would be entangled in a similar web. Sometime in 2013, the sum of N818,000 fraudulently vanished from a customer's account in a day at Diamond Bank.

Diamond Bank was among the five banks adjudged healthy by the Central Bank of Nigeria in its examination carried out in August.  Apart from financial sleazes which the bank is battling with, a source at the top management and Labour sources told our Correspondent that the bank has directed the branch managers to forward the names of at least three people they could no longer work with to the headquarters of the bank for downsizing exercise. This same exercise the bank attempted two years back but attracted the wrath of the Labour union in the country.

Similarly, a senior operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) revealed that the agency was allegedly investigating Alex Oti, the Chief Executive officer of Diamond Bank of multiple money laundering petitions.

“On the EFCC table is a huge allegation of money laundering against Alex Oti who allegedly helped a Nasarawa State government official launder huge billions of Naira.”

In a related development, a senior staff of Diamond Bank, Marilyn-Joan Obiora, is currently being prosecuted secretly by the EFCC at the Federal High Court in Umuahia, Abia State. Obiora's stunts were exposed in a petition by one Stephen Inegbu, the bank's zonal security supervisor in Port Harcourt.

His petition was inspired by the bank's inspection unit, which discovered that Obiora, abetted by four other staff of the bank, made fraudulent withdrawals totaling N125.6 million in three installments from customer's accounts.

“Obiora and colleagues withdrew N26 million, N91.6 million and N8 million.”

Like Obiora, the duo of Ebele Okoh and Charles Amadi, also of Diamond Bank, are also facing allegations before the Karu Chief Magistrate's Court, Abuja. Okoh and Amadi of the bank's Zone 4 branch in Abuja were accused of withdrawing N250,000 from a customer's account. Police prosecutor, Garba Mohammed, explained that Okoh and Amadi scanned the signatures of some customers, with the intention to use them for withdrawals.

The suspects did not go far in their scheme before they ran out of luck. By then, they had withdrawn N250,000 from the account of one L. A. Mittee through one Amaechi Josiah, who is also being tried for alleged theft in the same court.

Also, a staff of the Item Street branch of the Diamond Bank Plc, Owerri, Daniel Chibueze Meshach is presently cooling his heels in the detention cell of the Imo state Police command for allegedly masterminding an armed robbery operation in the state.

Daniel Meshach, 27, from Isingwu Ofeme-Ohuhu in Umuahia North council area of Abia state and two others were arrested by men of the Ambush Squad of the Imo state police command after a fierce confrontation with the Police as they tried to escape the scene of crime after successfully robbing their victim of cash and valuables at Umurim, Nekede, in Owerri West Council area of Imo state.

Lamenting his fate, the very eloquent banker confessed to the crime. He agreed he planned the operation and picked the victim of the robbery himself, apparently through privileged information. He blamed his involvement in armed robbery on peer pressure and pleaded to be given a second chance.

EFCC said it would get to the root of all these crimes in the bank. “It is our belief that there could be more, and we would soon find out.”

When contacted, the Chairman of the EFCC confirmed that, a petition against Diamond Bank was currently undergoing investigation at the anti-sleaze agency.

However, in an email conversation with Diamond Bank, it first denied the allegations, but later sent the following statement ; “Dear Patrick, I hope that you're enjoying your May Day holiday. We, Mediacraft Associates,  are the Media Consultants to Diamond Bank, and have been informed about your intention to publish a negative story on Diamond Bank. Please find here forwarded, the official statement from Diamond Bank on one of the issues raised in your intended story. I hope that this will serve to put the matter to rest.”

“Regarding the second issue of illegal transfer of funds by some of the staff members in Abuja, Owerri and Lagos, please be advised that the Bank's Legal Department is looking into the issue and will revert with an official position very shortly. We would therefore like to appeal that you stay action on your story pending our revert on this, which I assure you will be done expeditiously.

Do feel free to contact me directly if you require any further clarifications on this or any other issue concerning Diamond Bank.”

According to the bank, “following Alan Dick's (ADWA) commencement of a voluntary winding up proceeding, Diamond Bank instituted legal proceedings against ADWA, wherein a petition was filed before the court for a Court Ordered Liquidation. Liquidators were appointed by the court to realise any sums due to ADWA for distribution to accredited creditors.

As a result of the effort of the Bank and the Liquidators, in 2010, N850m was realized being receivables due from ADWA's client. Out of this sum N150m was paid to Diamond Bank, the Liquidators applied N200m to the settlement of expenses and fees; while the balance was to be distributed by the liquidators for the settlement of other accredited creditors. West and Gate Ltd did not approach the Bank, neither are we aware that they approached the Liquidators.

The Liquidators subsequently explored the option of commencing legal proceedings in the UK against the directors of ADWA for fraudulent practices resulting in the loss of funds through the removal of ADWA funds from Nigeria but not much progress has been made on this due to paucity of funds

In December 2013, a letter was received from West and Gate Ltd alleging that they were entitled to the ADWA client's funds of 2010, and requesting that the Bank refunds N150m directly to them. The Bank, in its response referred West and Gate to the liquidators to address any issues they may have, having formally been awarded stewardship of the affairs of ADWA by the court.

Please note that the Facility was duly approved by the Board of the Bank for availment. Upon eventual default, the facility was fully provided for in line with CBN guidelines.

Up till time of this report, Diamond Bank was yet to respond to the second part of our inquest. Several reminder emails to the media consultant of the bank (Mediacraft)  yielded no positive result, as the consultant kept asking for more time, and at some  time ignored our correspondent calls and further correspondences.

Nigeria Political Economist