BY EDMOND ODOK, ABUJA – Amidst public consternation over worrying developments in Nigeria’s banking sector, another player in the industry, Access Bank Plc is currently enmeshed in a N350 million fraud allegation.
The claims are contained in a petition by one Mr Pascal Nwabueze Innocent, who accused Access Bank of complicity in alleged fraudulent withdrawal of funds from his two bank accounts.
Documents available to Forefront indicated that Police preliminary investigation has thrown up a case of ‘criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust and outright theft’.
The petitioner, a customer with the Bank, said his private account and a corporate account for De Chimex Aluminum & Steel Company Limited domiciled in Wuse Market Branch of Access Bank Plc in Abuja are involved in the reported fraud case.
According to the documents, the lid on the suspected rip-off was blown open when Nwabueze Innocent discovered that over N116 million has been illegally withdrawn from both his personal and corporate bank accounts.
The petitioner said further inquiry into circumstances surrounding how the N116 million vanished revealed that the total amount missing from both accounts were in excess of over N350 million.
He maintained that the amount allegedly stolen is in addition to over N74 million which the bank reportedly usurped from his account in year 2016 when he imported heavy duty machines from China.
Mr Innocent also claimed that after engaging Access Bank in a letter dated Thursday, July 5, 2018, to ascertain how these contentious transactions were carried out and who authorized them, the Bank, in a reply dated Monday, July 9, informed him that investigations have commenced into the “alleged unauthorized and fraudulent withdrawals from your account.” Besides, the Bank requested him to provide details of the transactions to assist the investigation, even as it promised him justice when the exercise is concluded.
Innocent said sadly, the bank reneged on its earlier pledge when it repeatedly snubbed his request for the instruments deployed in withdrawing the funds, adding that instead of making available to him findings of their investigations, the Bank resorted to threats and blackmail by lodging complaints against him with the Department of State Services (DSS), the Nigeria Police, FCT Command and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Forefront gathered that with the Police’s intervention, Access Bank grudgingly provided about 43 Fund Transfer/Standing Order Forms, out of which only five were authorized by Nwabueze Innocent with the remaining 38 ‘unauthorized and fraudulently’ generated.
Police insiders said arising from the preliminary report, Access Bank became uncooperative and unresponsive to several issues as they relate to the case. The report took notice of Access Bank’s reluctance in producing original mandates for the transactions as well as the Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) footage between May 1, 2018 and June 30, 2018 when the transactions supposedly took place.
Competent Police sources hinted that in the midst of these alleged criminal transactions is one Mrs Uche Gloria Michael Sado, an Access Bank staff and Accounts officer for both accounts operated by Nwabueze Innocent.
Investigations identified Gloria Sado as the mastermind of huge withdrawals from Nwabueze Innocent’s account to a company known as Mikuch Global Limited. The reports fingered her as engineering the transfers and eventual disbursements of the stolen funds to various ‘beneficiaries’.
Insiders said investigations also traced Mikuch Global Limited, where the pilfered funds were lodged, to one Michael Sado, identified as spouse of the Account Officer, Mrs Gloria Michael-Sado. Furthermore, it was discovered that Mrs Sado pulled the purported financial scam by falsifying signatures, telephone number and company name of both accounts while also jamming alerts that would have gone to Nwabueze Innocent’s telephone lines.
But insinuations are that despite strong evidence of Mrs Gloria Sado’s culpability in the ‘stolen’ funds saga, Access Bank’s management seems to be stingy with facts and has continued to protect the staff by paying her monthly salaries even when she is said to be on the run.
However, in our efforts to get an official reaction from Access Bank Plc, Forefront stumbled on some documents concerning the case at EFCC’s Headquarters in Abuja. Information contained therein revealed that the Bank has formally explained its position to the anti-graft agency and well as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as the nation’s banking sector regulator.
Submissions by Access Bank’s Investigation and Internal Audit Units debunked the customer’s (Nwabueze Innocent) claims of its complicity in the alleged phony transactions, insisting that communications between the bank and Innocent to provide specific details of all disputed withdrawals to aid internal inquest has not been treated with the dispatch it deserves since July 9, 2018.
An EFCC source hinted that their investigations confirmed Access Bank’s claims that the affected staff, Mrs Uche Michael-Sado, was queried and asked to explain her role concerning the customer’s allegations, but she denied knowledge of any fraud-related transaction.
Forefront reliably gathered that aside lodging complaint on the matter at Zone 3 Police Station, Wuse, Abuja, FCT on July 7, 2018 for investigation, the Bank also reported the case to DSS and the EFCC for further investigation and arrest of Mrs Glory Michael-Sado, who eventually absconded from work following the alleged fraud.
In the midst of this imbroglio, the DSS arrested Glory’s husband, Mr Michael Sado on Thursday, July 19, 2018 for interrogation but he was released on bail while investigations are still on-going.
In another document cited by our correspondent, Access Bank insisted that the customer (Innocent) was fully aware of transactions on his two accounts as both colluded to circumvent regulatory guidelines and in the process, he ensured the Account Officer’s arrest in a case reported at the Life Camp Police Station, Abuja without involving the Bank.
For now, Police sources said the main actor in the alleged fraud, Mrs Uche Glory Michael-Sado is still at large and being tracked by security agencies while Access Bank has promised to follow up on the matter as investigation continues.