Abubakar Malami, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, has written to MTN Nigeria and four banks to demand payment of the N5.87bn fine awarded against them by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
CBN issued the directive on August 29 — two days after SaharaReporters published an exclusive report 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 told SaharaReporters 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”.
SaharaReporters now understands that 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 told SaharaReporters 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. SaharaReporters obtained the copy sent to Citibank Nigeria Limited.
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
“Please accept my best wishes.”