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LAGOS, NIGERIA.     Saturday, October 25 2003














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Fraudsters Go Under As Commission Tightens Noose
By Godwin Ijediogor

FRAUDSTERS who hitherto had a free reign are gradually going under as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) bares its fangs on them.

At the last count, three kingpins of the Advance Fee Fraud 419 had been arraigned in court by the commission while others have been declared wanted.

Among those on the wanted list of the commission are the chairman of a cocoa processing firm over his company's failure to repay over N2billion debt to a consortium of banks.

Another suspect identified as Chief Olafemi Ayeni, an accomplice of Alumile Adedeji aka Ade Bendel was yesterday declared wanted by the commission. .

The duo allegedly defrauded an Egyptian General Abdel Azim Attia of over $500,000 (N65 million)

Ayeni, the first suspect purportedly posed as Hakeem Sadiq Fulani in the nefarious business deal along with Adedeji. The 43 -year- old suspect hails from Ilesha, Osun State.

Adedeji is already facing trial in the court for obtaining under false pretence, about $305,000 (N39 million) from the Egyptian to fund a farming project.

In a statement yesterday, the commission explained that "Ayeni was initially charged to an Abuja Magistrate Court, which released him on bail. He has since broken the bail conditions and gone into hiding He is wanted in connection with incriminating evidence discovered by investigators at his home, and to shed more light on his role in the 419 heist."

Interestingly, banks, which have been unable to recover huge debts from prominent Nigerians and corporate entities are taking their plight to the commission.

. Also a few weeks ago, the EFCC beamed its searchlight on two top executives of Ebun Industries Limited, Messrs. Tope Bakare and Ayo Bakare.

Trouble began for the executives of one of the nation's cocoa processing companies about three years ago when their outfit sought and obtained loan facilities of about N2.3 billion from a consortium of seven banks to finance its line of business, including export of cocoa beans and processed products.

The company reportedly failed to meet its financial obligation to the banks and instead promised to pay a paltry N600,000,000 of its N2 billion indebtedness to the creditors over a five-year period.

Dissatisfied with the proposals, representatives of the banks after a meeting on July 16, 2002 demanded a review of the offers. They set up a seven-man committee to "further look at the options and come up with an action plan."

After due consideration and evaluation of the amount involved and the implications for their operations, some of the creditors rejected the proposal.

A participant at the meeting said that "it would be very stupid of us to accept N600,000 million in place of over N2 billion. I mean, what would the public think of us?."

By the proposal, one of the banks, for instance was offered about N60 million against its total exposure of N242 million as at July 31, 2003.

"To cut over losses and move on, we made a counter offer of immediate payment of N85m as full and final payments by Ebun Industries", he said. "Our said offer was turned down without any show of remorse or regret."

Piqued by the company's antic, some members of the consortium backed out of the arrangement and wrote to the financial crime body for assistance in recovering the debt.

In a letter dated September 18, 2003 addressed to the commission's chief, one of the creditors alleged that the promoters of the company "boast of their contacts within the Nigerian system and their ability to abuse legal loopholes to their advantage."

The banks, therefore, appealed to the commission to "use your good offices to thoroughly investigate this matter and bring the culprits to face the consequences of their action."

Consequently, the commission arrested the chief executive of the firm, Mr. Ayo Bakare, while its chairman Tope Bakare is said to be at large.

The commission has so far arrested and arraigned lawyer and businessman, Chief Fred Ajudua, Ade Bendel and a member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Maurice Ibekwe for defrauding some foreigners. Their cases are pending in different courts in Lagos.

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