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CBN Investigator’s Summons: TITAN Bank Says Directors Can’t Attend Meeting Due To Trip Abroad …… As investigator rejects excuse

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The three top officials of Titan Trust Bank invited by the special investigator, appointed by President Bola Tinubu to probe the activities of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to provide clarification into the alleged fraudulent acquisition of Union Bank have vowed to cooperate fully with the investigation.

The officials: the chairman of Titan Trust Bank (TTB), Babatunde Lemo, the chairman of Tropical General Investments Group, Cornelius Vink and the managing director of the group, Rahul Savara, made the pledge in a reply sent to the Investigator, Jim Obazee, through their lawyers on Thursday.
The head of operations, Office of the Special Investigator, DCP Eloho Okpoziakpo, had in the letter dated December 23, 2923, asked the trio to appear before the panel on December 28 at the Department of Force Intelligence (DFI), opposite Nigeria Police Force Head-quarters Shehu Shagari Way Area 11, Garki Abuja, without fail or excuse.

Okpoziakpo had also stated that the Investigative Panel extended a fresh invitation to the three men to counter TTB’s allegation that they were not given a fair hearing.

He also told them that if they failed to honour the invitation, “it will be construed that they have decided to forfeit their purported shareholdings in TTB and Union Bank of Nigeria, irrespective of which vehicle they are using to own the purported shares.”

But in the letter signed by Prof. Gbolahan Elias (SAN) on their behalf, the three men claimed that they would not be able to honour the invitation because they are presently out of the country for family and other reasons.

They, however, promised to make themselves available as soon as they returned to Nigeria.

The letter reads: “We trust that this letter meets you well. We are lawyers, to Titan Trust Bank Ltd. (“TTB”) and Union Bank Plc (“Union”) (the “Banks”). We respectfully have their instructions to write this letter regarding the invitations in your letter to TTB dated December 23, 2023.

“Unfortunately, Mr Tunde Lemo and the two largest ultimate investors in the Banks (Mr Cornelius Vink and Mr Rahul Savara) are currently away from Nigeria for family and other reasons.

“That is typically so at this time of the year. They will not be in Nigeria before the second week of January 2024. They will honour the invitations entirely soon after they come in.

“About the information requested, which we submitted earlier on September 1, 2023, at the DSS HQ as evidenced in Annex 1 therewith, we will resubmit the information tomorrow morning for your kind review.

“The individual invitees and the Banks re-iterate their willingness and readiness to cooperate with your good selves in your important work.

Obazee had, in his report he recently submitted to President Tinubu, alleged that some persons were used as proxies by a former CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, to set up Titan Trust Bank and acquire Union Bank.

However, Union Bank had insisted that the acquisition of the bank followed due process and met all regulatory requirements, including that of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Maenwhile, the Special Investigator probing the activities of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Other Related Entities, Mr. Jim Obazee, yesterday rejected an excuse by the Chairman of Titan Trust Bank Limited, Mr. Tunde Lemo, and two others not to appear for interrogation today.

Obazee threatened to make a recommendation to the CBN to ask the Federal Government to take over the two banks.

He accused Lemo and two others of alleged obstruction of his assignment.

The other invitees are the two largest ultimate investors in Titan Trust Bank Limited and Union Bank Plc, Mr. Cornelius Vink and Mr. Rahul Savara.

The trio were given today’s deadline to explain how they owned Titan Trust Bank and sourced $500million to acquire the Union Bank.

Barely 24 hours to their appearance before the Special Investigator in Abuja, they wrote through their lawyer that they will not be able to honour the invitation due to family reasons.

But the Special Investigator said their excuse was untenable.

He also said that documents submitted through proxies shall not be accepted.

Obazee alleged that Lemo was in the United Kingdom to celebrate his birthday.

He faulted the three invitees in a December 27, 2023 letter, through the Head of Operations, Office of the Special Investigator, DCP Eloho Okpoziakpo.

The letter was addressed to Lemo through the Acting Managing Director, Titan Trust Bank (TTB).

The letter reads in part: “Reference is made to the Law Firm of G.ELIAS letter dated 27th December, 2023 in response to the Special Investigator’s invitation to you via a letter with reference number CR:3000/TSI/ABJ/VOL.1/69 dated 24th December, 2023 in respect of the above subject.

“I am directed to inform you that the Special Investigator is fully aware that you are in the United Kingdom to celebrate your birthday. This you made aware to the Special Investigator when you agreed to attend a meeting to be scheduled for 28 December 2023 and also proposed that Mr. Cornelius Vink and Rahul Savara be given 7 (seven) days to prove their purported ownership of Titan Trust Bank and Union Bank of Nigeria or forfeit the shares to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

“Accordingly, this excuse given by your good selves through your lawyers is unacceptable and regarded as obstruction of the Special Investigator in the course of his duties.”

The Special Investigator said he shall not accept documents submitted through proxies.

The letter added: “ We want to put it on record that neither you (Babatunde Lemo) nor Cornelius Vink nor Rahul Savara ever submitted any of these requested documents to the investigating team at Department of State Service (DSS) or anywhere else before now.

“ In fact, Cornelius Vink and Rahul Savara have never presented themselves to the Special Investigator since 28th August 2023 when they were first invited for interview.

“ The Special Investigator also directs that you should be informed that documents submitted through proxies shall not be accepted as Mr. Cornelius Vink, Mr. Rahul Savara and your goodself will be required to speak to whatever document(s)/information you present during the meeting.

“Consequently, I am to further inform you that your invitation to appear before the Special Investigator on 28 December, 2023 by 2pm prompt in respect of the matter under investigation and for which you had earlier made statement stands.

“ Kindly note that the conditions on paragraphs 6 to 8 in our earlier letter fo you with reference number CR:3000/TSI/ABJ/VOL. 1/69 dated 24th December 2023 remains effective and shall be triggered if you or Messrs Vink and Savara fail to attend the meeting as scheduled.

“Accept please, the warm assurances of the Special Investigator’s high esteem.

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