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Union Bank deal: CBN investigator rejects Titan Trust CEO, others’ requests

 

Mr. Jim Obazee, the Special Investigator looking into the actions of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Other Related Entities, rejected an explanation given by the Chairman of Titan Trust Bank Limited, Mr. Tunde Lemo, and two others not to come for questioning today.


Obazee threatened to suggest to the CBN that the two banks be taken over by the Federal Government.


He accused Lemo and two others of interfering with his assignment.


Mr. Cornelius Vink and Mr. Rahul Savara, the two largest ultimate investors in Titan Trust Bank Limited and Union Bank Plc, are also invited.


The trio were given today’s deadline to explain how they owned Titan Trust Bank and sourced $500million to acquire the Union Bank.


Barely 24 hours to their appearance before the Special Investigator in Abuja, they wrote through their lawyer that they will not be able to honour the invitation due to family reasons.


But the Special Investigator said their excuse was untenable.


He also said that documents submitted through proxies shall not be accepted.


Obazee alleged that Lemo was in the United Kingdom to celebrate his birthday.


He faulted the three invitees in a December 27, 2023 letter, through the Head of Operations, Office of the Special Investigator, DCP Eloho Okpoziakpo.


The letter was addressed to Lemo through the Acting Managing Director, Titan Trust Bank (TTB).


The letter reads in part: “Reference is made to the Law Firm of G.ELIAS letter dated 27th December, 2023 in response to the Special Investigator’s invitation to you via a letter with reference number CR:3000/TSI/ABJ/VOL.1/69 dated 24th December, 2023 in respect of the above subject.


“I am directed to inform you that the Special Investigator is fully aware that you are in the United Kingdom to celebrate your birthday. This you made aware to the Special Investigator when you agreed to attend a meeting to be scheduled for 28 December 2023 and also proposed that Mr. Cornelius Vink and Rahul Savara be given 7 (seven) days to prove their purported ownership of Titan Trust Bank and Union Bank of Nigeria or forfeit the shares to the Federal Government of Nigeria.


“Accordingly, this excuse given by your good selves through your lawyers is unacceptable and regarded as obstruction of the Special Investigator in the course of his duties.”


The Special Investigator said he shall not accept documents submitted through proxies.



The letter added: “ We want to put it on record that neither you (Babatunde Lemo) nor Cornelius Vink nor Rahul Savara ever submitted any of these requested documents to the investigating team at Department of State Service (DSS) or anywhere else before now.


“ In fact, Cornelius Vink and Rahul Savara have never presented themselves to the Special Investigator since 28th August 2023 when they were first invited for interview.


“ The Special Investigator also directs that you should be informed that documents submitted through proxies shall not be accepted as Mr. Cornelius Vink, Mr. Rahul Savara and your goodself will be required to speak to whatever document(s)/information you present during the meeting.


“Consequently, I am to further inform you that your invitation to appear before the Special Investigator on 28 December, 2023 by 2pm prompt in respect of the matter under investigation and for which you had earlier made statement stands.


“ Kindly note that the conditions on paragraphs 6 to 8 in our earlier letter fo you with reference number CR:3000/TSI/ABJ/VOL. 1/69 dated 24th December 2023 remains effective and shall be triggered if you or Messrs Vink and Savara fail to attend the meeting as scheduled.


“Accept please, the warm assurances of the Special Investigator’s high esteem.”


Titan Trust Bank and the Union Bank Plc (UBN), through their counsel, Prof. Gbolahan Elias (SAN), had asked for more time.


Elias said Lemo and the two largest ultimate investors in the banks (Mr. Cornelius Vink; Mr. Rahul Savara) are not due to be in Nigeria before the second week in January 2024.


In a December 27 letter to the Team of the Special Investigators, the counsel said the invitees “will honour the invitations fully soon after they come in.”


But the counsel said the banks should resubmit all information required by the Special Investigator.


The letter was titled: “Re: CBN Investigation Activities: Invitation for a Follow Up Meeting with the Special Investigator.”


The letter reads: “We trust that this letter meets you well. We are lawyers to: Titan Trust Bank Ltd. (“TTB”) and Union Bank Plc (“Union”) (the “Banks”). We respectfully have their instructions to write this letter in respect of the invitations in your letter to TTB dated December 23,2023.


“Unfortunately, both Mr. Tunde Lemo and the two largest ultimate investors in the Banks (Mr. Cornelius Vink; Mr. Rahul Savara) are away from Nigeria at the moment for family and other reasons. That is typically so at this time of the year. They are not due to be in Nigeria before the second week in January 2024. They will honour the invitations fully soon after they come in.


“With regard to the information requested, which we submitted earlier on 1st September 2023 at the DSS HQ as evidenced in Annex 1 therewith, we will resubmit the information tomorrow morning for your kind review.


“ The individual invitees and the Banks re-iterate their willingness and readiness to co-operate with your good selves in your important work.


“ We respectfully thank you very much for your attention. Please direct all further enquiries on this matter to our law firm.”

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