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CBN’s N5.87bn fine: Pay within 14 days, AGF orders banks, MTN

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has demanded in writing that MTN Nigeria and four banks pay the N5.87bn fine awarded against them by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

CBN issued the directive on August 29 — two days after the story was published on how Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the apex bank, was blocking the imposition of fines amounting to $6.5billion on banks that exported forex illegally.

Citibank, Diamond Bank, Stanbic IBTC Nigeria and Standard Chartered Bank are the affected banks, with Standard Chartered Bank receiving the highest fine of N2.4 billion. CBN also said MTN had been asked to refund $8 billion to the apex bank.

While Stanbic IBTC Nigeria was fined N1.8 billion, Citibank Nigeria was fined N1.2 billion and Diamond Bank was directed to pay N250 million for violating extant rules.

The bank said the fine became necessary following allegations of “remittance of foreign exchange with irregular certificates of capital importation issued on behalf of some offshore investors of MTN Nigeria Communications Limited and subsequent investigations carried out by the apex bank in March 2018”.

It said the sum of $3,448,119,321.72 was repatriated by Standard Chartered Bank on the basis of the illegally issued CCIs, while the sums of $2,632,005,623.78, $1,766,263,212.75 and $348,914,501.30 were repatriated by Stanbic IBTC Nigeria, Citibank Nigeria and Diamond Bank Plc, between 2007 and 2015, respectively.

It then emerged that MTN Nigeria and the four banks had begun lobbying the apex bank for a “revisiting” of the action. 

A source within CBN said that all of the banks, as well as MTN, had been engaging key CBN officials, including its Governor, “by phone calls, physical visits and even formal correspondence” in the hope that the fine may be “revisited”.

While the lobbying was going, the AGF was writing MTN Nigeria and the banks, giving them a 14-day ultimatum to make the payments. A source familiar with the facts of the matter said that, upon expiry of the 14-day ultimatum, MTN and the banks will suffer the payment of interests in addition.

The letter, dated September 03 and signed by Malami himself, was addressed to the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the respective organisations. 

The letter reads: “Pursuant to the penalty amount charged on Citibank Nigeria Limited by the Central Bank of Nigeria on 28th August, 2018 in the sum of One Billion, Twenty Six Million Naira (1,026,000,000.00) being infraction of forex remittances with irregularly issued certificates of Capital Importation issued between 2007 and 2015.

“The Office of the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice hereby request that the said amount referenced hereto are to be paid into the:

                     Account Name: FGN ASSET RECOVERY ACCOUNT

                    Account No: CBN 0020054161191

                    Currency: Naira

“Please accept my best wishes.”

About Lanre Oyetade

A multiple award winner in Economics and business journalism, Lanre Oyetade has served close to two decades in the media industry, spanning different notable stables, where he is privileged to have risen to the position of a title editor. A masters degree holder in Economics from the University of Lagos and doctoral student at the Babcock University, he is a winner of the prestigious NMMA Capital Market Award for two consecutive years (2004 & 2005), and was also a nominee for the body’s banking and finance and money market awards for two years. In 2013, he also won the Most Outstanding Business-Reporting Title Editor award of the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria (NIMN). A minister in the LORDS’s vineyard, he has been an inspirational speaker and resource person at many corporate and religious fora since early 2004, and has so far authored three books on the capital market; on personal effectiveness, and on personal finance, in 2008 and 2014, respectively.