From Boardroom To Jail Cell! Bank MDs Who Fell From Grace To Grass

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From Boardroom To Jail Cell! Bank MDs Who Fell From Grace To Grass

From Boardroom To Jail Cell! Bank MDs Who Fell From Grace To Grass
August 23
10:52 2021

•Sad, sorry fate of bank chiefs who lost their name, fortune, to greed
•Their gruesome march to infamy

The only thing that endures is character. Status and wealth—all these are illusions. And fame, to be precise, is nothing more than the quintessence of all the conceits collecting around a trumped-up name. Those that strive to touch the stars, often stumble at a straw. It’s a classic bonfire of the vanities – and it burns. Scalded by the flames of their own greed, some former Managing Directors (MDs) of Nigerian banks rue their descent from grace to grass even as you read.

In their prime as bank chiefs, they carried on like egotistic tyrants. The world was theirs to dominate as they assumed the deportment of pirates and feudal lords, plundering bank coffers to fulfil their inordinate hankering for wealth

The relationship between them and their banks was akin to a game in which a sharper plays with a dupe, entitled ‘Heads I win, tails you lose.’

There is no gainsaying these bank chiefs operated like crooks; many of them flaunted the deportment of ethical saints but beneath their skin and righteous mien festered unrepentant crookedness.

Despite their seeming invincibility, many of them were eventually caught with their hands in the till leading to their sack and prosecution. For instance, at the backdrop of recent revelations of scandalous exploits of local bank MDs, often in connivance with criminal masterminds among top-ranking officers of the immediate past administration, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) launched an investigation into local banks’ operations and activities of presiding bank chiefs. The investigation, to the consternation of the apex bank, revealed shameful truths about the nation’s bank chiefs.

At the end of the exercise, many bank directors were found to be responsible for their banks’ major financial woes. Besides masterminding several fraudulent internal and external transactions, many bank MDs are owing their banks outrageous loans which have turned into bad debts. These loans are not serviced by the bank directors nor do they have any intention of refunding the scandalous sums they borrowed from their banks. Further investigations revealed that the loans owed to some banks by individual MDs amount to hundreds of billions of naira. This constitutes great strains on the banks’ capital and other resources thus plunging the banks into abysmal financial woes.

Major culprits are repeat offenders who are currently embroiled in scandals tantamount to advance fee fraud, money laundering, and outright embezzlement of public funds in conspiracy with corrupt public officers. Many of them have been quietly sneaking to the offices of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to refund money misappropriated by them in collaboration with former public officers currently cooling their heels in EFCC custody.

The affected MDs having lost their jobs, are currently running helter-skelter to bribe regulatory and judicial officers in charge of their investigation to save them from imminent jail terms.

Some of them actually got prosecuted and served varied sentences across the country’s correctional centres. Their sojourn in prison rid them of their hitherto enviable repute and social capital. No longer are they the darlings of high society as their oft publicised trials and sentencing effectively cost them the loyalty and fawning admiration of their peers; the latter wasted no time in checking them off their elite cliques and revoking their membership of exclusive social clubs.

For instance, it took ex-Bank PHB boss, Francis Atuche, a trip to the prison to understand that his intimidating wealth and affluence are actually very transient; led by his lust for riches and the spotlight, he danced too close to the bonfire of material lust, until he got burned, leaving the vivid air soured with his charred aspects.

On June 17, the former managing director of the defunct Bank PHB, was convicted of fraud by a high court in Ikeja, Lagos, and subsequently sentenced to six years in prison. The ruling came after a lengthy legal battle that lasted about a decade.

Atuche and a former chief financial officer of the bank, Ugo Anyanwu, were accused of stealing N25.7 billion. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had preferred 27 counts against both of them.

With his sentencing, Atuche has added his name to the disreputable list of convicted bankers.

Also on the list are the following disgraced bank chiefs:

Cecilia Ibru: On October 8, 2010, the former chief executive officer of the defunct Oceanic Bank was convicted and sentenced to six months imprisonment after a plea bargain that saw her pleading to charges of fraud. She was ordered to pay back more than €1 billion, following 25 counts of fraud. Ibru, who began working at the bank in the early 90s as a general manager, rose to become the managing director of the lender seven years after. During her time, Oceanic Bank evolved from its family-owned bank beginning to become one of Nigeria’s biggest publicly listed companies.

She was accused of granting credit facilities of N16 billion to a company that “had no collateral.”

Although she denied any wrongdoing, over 100 properties in different parts of the world from Nigeria to Dubai and the United States were confiscated from her. So also were her shares in 77 companies. However, under her stewardship, the bank reportedly experienced tremendous growth.

Okey Nwosu: The CEO of the defunct FinBank (now part of First City Monument Bank Plc) was among the five bank managing directors that were fired by the Central Bank of Nigeria on August 13, 2009, on allegations of fraud, money laundering, and other.

He was accused alongside three directors of the bank: Dayo Famoroti, Agnes Ebubedike, and Danjuma Ocholi in a 26-count charge centering on conversion and theft of N10.935 billion. They denied any wrongdoing.

In January 2021, Justice Lateefa Okunnu of the high court sitting in Ikeja Lagos found all the accused persons guilty and sentenced Messrs Nwosu and Famoroti to three years in jail.

Meanwhile, there are other top bankers also facing trial for alleged fraud. They are still on trial and it is unclear how their cases will end.

They include:
Erastus Akingbola: In August 2010, the former managing director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank, Erastus Akingbola, was arraigned for fraud in a 22-count charge by the EFCC. He pleaded not guilty to all counts.

Akingbola was accused of N47.1 billion fraud in what the commission described as “fictitious transactions.” It was alleged he manipulated Intercontinental Bank’s share price and extended loans without the approval of board members.

The judge who had handled the case, Charles Archibong, had dismissed the charges for “lack of diligent prosecution” by the anti-graft agency. In 2019, the EFCC re-arraigned him on a 22-count charge. The matter is ongoing.

Charles Ojo: In October 2009, the erstwhile managing director of the extinct Spring Bank (now part of Heritage Bank) was originally arraigned alongside Atuche at the Federal High Court, Lagos Division, in a N125 billion fraud case.

The suit presided over by Justice Akinjide Ajakaiye alleged the two bank CEOs were involved in various forms of malfeasance ranging from disregarding due process in granting loans to some companies to manipulating share prices. Both men have stake in Platinum Capital Limited, which they were said to have recklessly granted facilities worth billions of naira.

But the litigation has been bedevilled by a lot of impediments and setbacks, beginning with the transfer of the judge few months into the trial, which later culminated in his retirement.

Justice Fatimat Nyanko, who took over the case, would soon be transferred also, prompting the EFCC to start prosecution from scratch in a 45-count charge.

There is no gainsaying Atuche has brought his name to disrepute by his conviction and subsequent imprisonment. But that is hardly the least of his problems; right now, the disgraced bank chief greater worries; like how he would spent the next six years even as they unfurl as a serial nightmare. He would spend all of his time in fulfillment of a penal settlement, and join hordes of incarcerated felons at casting long wistful glances at the tent of blue that prisoners call freedom, and that the free casually take for granted as the sky.


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