Six top officials of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and 16 other workers of commercial banks in the country have been arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for a mega scam involving N8 billion.
The suspects were picked up by operatives of the anti-graft agency for stealing and putting into circulation defaced and mutilated Nigerian currency notes to the tune of N8 billion meant for destruction.
All the suspects have already been taken into EFCC custody preparatory to their arraignment at the Federal High Court, Ibadan, tomorrow. The trial will run till June 4 in a bid to speed up the prosecution of the suspects by the court.
A statement signed by the Head of Media of the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, gave the names of the suspects as: 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 16 suspects, who colluded with the CBN officials to commit the fraud, are officials drawn from Zenith Bank, FCMB, Wema Bank, Access Bank, First Bank, Skye Bank, Ecobank and Sterling Bank.
The officials helped themselves with the mutilated N8 billion cash and burned old newspapers in place of the defaced Naira notes, thereby making a mockery of the CBN rule relating to such money.
But the suspects ran out of luck when one of the bank officials petitioned the EFCC, alleging on November 3, 2014 that over N6, 575,549, 370 was cornered and discreetly recycled by light-fingered top executives of the CBN at the Ibadan branch.
The suspects, who were members of the Briquetting Panel, which handles the destruction of defaced notes from commercial banks, decided to play a fast one on the nation and smile to their banks but ran into a trouble yesterday.
In banking parlance, Briquetting is disintegration and destruction of counted and audited dirty notes. By this practice, depositor banks usually take mutilated notes to the CBN in exchange for fresh notes equivalent of the amount deposited.
But while carrying out the assignment, the team was alleged to have found one of the currency boxes filled only with old newspapers rather than 20 bundles of N1000 notes.
A similar case, according to investigation, had been discovered on September 22, 2014 when a box that was supposed to contain N500 notes to the tune of N5 billion was filled with old newspapers.
But unlike in the past, the latest fraud could not be swept under the carpet, as a member of the Briquetting Panel from the Osogbo branch blew the lid on the illicit deal.
In a statement, the informant stated that the exercise was designed to last between August 4 and 8, 2014. The 35-year-old whistle blower, however, stated that she discovered a strange ‘sight’ while opening the third box on the second day of the exercise.
She added that she confronted the other members of the panel, including Eye, Head, Briquetting Panel; Treasury Assistant; Coordinator and Head, Security, CBN, Ibadan, they merely assured her that they would look into it but did nothing about it months after.
She said she later found out that Eye not only maintained sealed lips over the matter but omitted it from her report.
A five count charge awaits the suspects as they prepare to face the wrath of the law.
CBN’s Director of Corporate Communications, Ibrahim Muazu, could not be reached for comments but a senior official of the apex bank, who confirmed this development, however said it was the end result of a whistle blow from CBN in November last year when the incident occurred.
He told Vanguard that the apex bank had installed a strong surveillance system in its currency operations that could detect every unwholesome transaction but some of its staff went to undermine the system in collusion with officials of some banks. In the process, an alarm system was triggered off which led to the apprehension of the culprits and they were handed over to EFCC for investigations and prosecution.