Fresh facts have emerged on why the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC arrested Mr. Innocent Chukwuma, the chairman of Innoson Group.
What was discovered:
1. GTBank (in 2009) granted Innoson several credit facilities (i.e loans) totalling N2,400,000,000,00 (two billion, four hundred million Naira only), to part finance working capital requirements, import new motorcycles and motorcycle spare parts, agricultural spare parts and plastic manufacturing equipment (“Imported Goods”).
2. Under the loan terms agreed by Dr. Innocent Chukwuma on behalf of Innoson, proprietary interest in the Imported Goods was consigned exclusively in favour of the Bank. This means that the Bank was the exclusive owner of the Imported Goods. Accordingly, the original shipping documents (i.e. the Bills of Lading) were in the custody of the Bank, and have remained in the custody of the Bank at all times.
3. Because GTBank was the exclusive owner of the imported goods, ownership of the goods could only be transferred to Innoson (or any other third party) by the Bank. The condition in the agreement between the Bank and Innoson, for the release of the Imported Goods by the Bank to Innoson, was the payment of 25% of the value of each Letter of Credit transaction by Innoson.
What was learnt:
1. Innocent Chukwuma approached the Bank, on behalf of Innoson, requesting the release of the shipping documents without payment of the agreed+ 25% equity. The Bank declined his request as a result of Innoson’s failure to meet the agreed conditions.
2. It came to the Bank’s knowledge sometime in June, 2011 that the Imported Goods for which the Bank declined to release shipping documents to Innoson in view of its failure to meet the agreed conditions, had been fraudulently procured by Innoson.
3. The Bank discovered that Innoson, under the control of Dr. Innocent Chukwuma had forged the Bank’s endorsement on the bills of lading to the Shipping Line and fraudulently cleared the Imported Goods which were in the name of the Bank. The Imported Goods, being property of the Bank should not have been cleared from the Port without the original shipping documents being endorsed by the Bank in favour of Innoson, or any third party.
4. The signatures of 4 (four) staff of the Bank, to wit, Taofeek Olalere, Dan Attah, Bunmi Adeyemi and Amazu Amalachukwu, as well as the Bank’s stamp were forged on all the shipping documents used by Innoson to fraudulently clear goods at the port. The Bank did not at any time endorse or transfer the shipping documents to Innoson, as the originals of each of the relevant Bill of Lading remain in the Bank’s custody to this very day.
5. When the Bank reported the matter to the Nigeria Police, Dr. Innocent Chukwuma claimed the Bank released the shipping documents to him. Consequently, the Police commenced investigation into the Bank’s complaint, including a forensic examination of the disputed signatures, and established that the signatures of the Bank’s staff were forged, and the Imported Goods were fraudulently cleared from the Nigerian Ports Authority by Dr. Innocent Chukwuma and his accomplices.
What we heard from the Police:
1. Police investigations confirmed that Innoson and Dr. Innocent Chukwuma deliberately set out to defraud, steal from the Bank and convert the Imported Goods belonging to the Bank by deceptive means and through forgery and misrepresentation. The unlawful takeover of the Imported Goods, which served as the Bank’s collateral, left an indebtedness in excess of the sum of N1,654,481,895.04 (one billion, six hundred and fifty four million, four hundred and eighty one thousand, eight hundred and ninety five Naira, four Kobo) as at September 26, 2012.
2. Chief Innocent Chukwuma was arrested and interrogated by operatives of the EFCC, following which he agreed to make monthly payments into Innoson’s account until the full liquidation of Innoson’s indebtedness to the Bank. However, Innoson defaulted in making the agreed payments.