The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is to go after bank officials involved in the mismanagement of pension funds.
SATURDAY PUNCH investigations showed that the Chairman of the commission, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, has taken steps to ensure the effective prosecution of the officials of the various banks in Abuja, who aided the plundering of the pension money.
A source, who confided in our correspondent on Friday, said the agency was alarmed at the complicity of the bankers in the pension scam and had adopted measures to ensure their prosecution.
The source said that while it would be difficult for the commission to prosecute banks, it had decided that all bankers and accounts officers found to have collaborated with the 40 accused persons facing trial for looting the pension funds would be made to face the full weight of the law.
It was learnt that a team of investigators led by Mohammed Wakili, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, had discovered several bankers, who exploited their positions to aid the principal suspects to move huge amounts of money.
“You know that it is difficult to charge banks to court. However, what will happen is that we will go after officers of the banks involved in this scam.
“We are tracking all the officials in charge of these accounts and any individual that goes against the rules in the banks to commit financial crimes will answer for it.
“Apart from that, the commission may also report the banks to the Central Bank of Nigeria when that becomes very necessary,” the source.
He said several bank officials were indicted for opening accounts and making them available to receive proceeds of fraud from the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation for a percentage of the money paid into the accounts.
A look at the proof of evidence tendered in the suit against the principal actors of the pension fraud, Dr. Sani Shuaibu and 39 others at the Federal High Court, Abuja, showed the high degree of collusion between the banks and the suspects.
For instance, the manager of a new generation bank is believed to have aided one of the suspects to launder N1.988,312bn through non-existent companies and ghost workers.
His counterpart with another new generation bank at Maitama, Abuja, was said to be more brazen as the investigating EFCC team found him culpable of grave violations of the rules guiding banking operations.
The banker used different accounts belonging to his friends, wife, mother-in-law and others to receive millions of naira as pension arrears and gratuities.
The EFCC traced a N9,414,350 payment for pension and gratuity to the account of the banker’s wife and another N55,525,001 to her company for supplies that did not take place.
The EFCC team also discovered the involvement of another in the oil subsidy fraud.
The bank manager reportedly paid N35m into the account of a youth corps member (name withheld) serving in Lagos, among many other relations, whose accounts were used to move the subsidy money.
According to the correspondence between the bank and the Wakili-led investigators, the corps member got N8, 539,332.09 from the office of the Head of Service of the Federation, apart from N13.8m and N12.6m paid to her supposed companies.
The EFCC stated in its proof of evidence that the corps member confessed that her account was used for the fraudulent transactions by the bank manager.
Another banker was said to have used his clients’ accounts to collect N116,525 and N105,100 for fictitious contracts.
Operatives also discovered that a company whose account was receiving the bulk of the fake payments (name withheld) had a turnover of N560m and had $2m in its domiciliary account.
Another N500m and $2m was found in a fixed deposit account in the company’s name opened with the photograph of an old woman but being operated by one of the accused in the ongoing pension fraud trial.
Also, another branch manager of an old generation bank received N146m from the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation and was rewarded by one of the accused with N7.3m, which was five per cent of the total sum.
It was learnt that with the growing involvement of bankers in the scam and the confessional statements extracted from them, the EFCC was focusing its investigations on the activities of the accounts managers in the banks.
When our correspondent contacted the acting Head of Information of the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, on the telephone on Friday, he refused to comment on the new dimension to the pension scam.
He said the matter was already in court and it would not be proper for him to comment on it.