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MacPeple: Former Fortune International Bank Chairman Loses Bid To Stop Police Investigation

MacPeple: Former Fortune International Bank Chairman Loses Bid To Stop Police Investigation

By Our Reporter
The Nigerian Police can now resume investigation of petition written against Henry Adawari Macpeple, former chairman of Fortune International Bank, by the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation, NDIC , following the dismissal of the suit he filed against the Inspector General of Police and three others by a Federal High Court, Lagos.
Macpeple and his company, Suffolk Petroleum Services Limited had instituted a N150billion suit against NDIC Over N2.3billion debt he alleged owed.
Other defendants in the suit are Inspector General of Police, Commissioner of Police, Special Fraud Unit and one Assistant commissioner of Police, Mike Opete.
In an affidavit sworn to by Hakeem Babalola, a legal practitioner, and filed before the Federal High Court, Lagos, by the law firm of A. N. Odebe, it was alleged that sometime in 1999 Suffolk Petroleum Services Limited was awarded contract of US $42,175,274.00 for the procurement of jacket and facilities improvement, consequent upon which the company obtained N2.3billion from Fortune International Bank.
In other to facilitate the effectual of other contracts awarded to the various companies in the Adamac Group of Companies in which Suffolk Petroleum Services belonged, the company had applied for and obtained credit from several banks. Adawari Macpepple did not play any role, neither did he exert any influence in the procurement of the said loan, and there were no incident of insider abuse.
However, the company was shocked when on 6th of June, 2004 a statement of account in its name leading to a closing balance of N5,529,370,896,20 was sent directly to the office of the Chairman of the company. The company protested but on the 10th of August 2014 when the company presumed the issue had been resolved, it was surprised to receive a letter from the bank claiming the sum of N9,329,621,471.29.
The company protested and while they were preparing for the reconciliation exercise, Macpepple was surprised to receive from the Managing Director of the bank, Mr Fidelis Tilijie, another memo dated 25th August 2014 stating that the financial statement represented a fair assessment of the banks as presented by firm of accountant Akintola Williams. The company received a letter dated 14th of September 2004 stating the company’s exposure and indebtedness to the bank to be about N4billion.
However, Tilije on 2nd of December 2004 wrote a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in which he alleged that the indebtedness of the company to Fortune Bank was N16,227,353,579.67.
After months of investigation, it was discovered that the bank charged excessive, arbitrary and onerous interest and other charges; charged compound interest, carrying on of foreign exchange related transactions on the company’s account without mandate.
EFCC also discovered that an oil company was owing the company millions of dollars, while it was also discovered there was no insider abuse.
Consequently, the plaintiff urged the court to declare that the loan obtained by the company was not obtained under pretence and that all the loans had been fully paid and the company is no longer indebted to NDIC.
However, the Inspector General of Police and the Commissioner of Police, Special Fraud Unit in a counter affidavit sworn to by one Inspector Adeola Ogunsanya whose team was directed to investigate the petition of Fortune International Bank in liquidation against Henry MacPepple and related companies averred that the claims of the applicants were false and misleading as Police is constitutionally positioned to receive complaints from members of the public including NDIC for investigation.
In an affidavit sworn to by Inspector Ogunsanya and filed before the court by Police Legal Officer, Azubuike Sylvester from Police Special Fraud Unit, the deponent averred that as soon as the Police received the petition, investigation commenced, and Henry Adawari MacPepple among others were invited in order to also hear from the Applicants. MacPepple volunteered his statement and was offered police administrative bail but instead of him to report back with relevant information that will assist the police in their investigation he ran to the court for protection from further investigation and possible prosecution in law court and fabricated lies against the police.
Consequently, Azubuike contended that granting the applicant’s application will jeopardize the interest of the defendants and occasion a miscarriage of justice as the case against the applicant under investigation is criminal in nature and is currently under investigation before this application from the applicants was filed. The defendants urged the court to dismiss the applicant’s application with cost as it was ill conceived, nefarious, unscrupulous and a calculated attempt to mislead the court.
In a petition to the Commissioner of Police, Special Fraud Unit, by the NDIC, the depositor’s guarantee agency alleged that MacPepple was the erstwhile Chairman board of directors of defunct FORTUNE INTERNATIONAL BANK PLC, a position he occupied from April, 1999 till closure of the bank on the 16th of January 2006 by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
During that time, several companies over which MacPepple had direct ownership or controlling shares transacted business with the bank at various times. NDIC alleged that Macpepple leveraged on his position as board Chairman of the defunct bank as well as managing director/chief executive officer of Suffolk Petroleum Services Limited, a member of Adamac Group of Companies located at Plot 20, East-West Road Rumuodara, Port Harcourt and obtained a loan facility in the sum of N2.3billion from Fortune International Bank without due process on the 1st of April 2002 for Suffolk Petroleum Services Limited, toward executing contract of procurement and fabrication of KCDP jacket. But the loan facility was not used for the purpose it was advanced. The facility was unsecured by any form of valid or sufficient collateral at the time of approval by the bank.
In the light of the above allegation, NDIC urged the Commissioner of Police, Special Fraud Unit, to use his good offices to conduct criminal investigation into the alleged fraudulent transactions.
In her judgment, the Presiding Judge, Mojisola Olatoregun, after appraising the submission of the two parties said: “This suit was filed on the 31st of March, 2017 challenging the propriety of the invitation on issues bordering on obtaining money under false pretence, violation of the Bank and Other Financial institutions Act (BOFIA) and whether the interrogation, investigation and harassment are not violations of BOFIA, the doctrine of lis pendent, Section 6(6)(a) and section 36(1) of the 1999 constitution.
“ I have carefully examined all these against the facts disclosed in the affidavit in support of the originating summons. I found no urgency disclosed. I found no smell of danger disclosed. I found nothing to suggest that an irreparable mischief was to be let loose. I found no infringement of any right disclosed. On the contrary, or an invitation or interrogation to find out the truth without more cannot amount to a violation of any right under chapter 4 of the 1999 constitution as well as Sections 6(6)(a) and (b) of the same constitution.
“Failure to give the requisite notice in the absence of any disclosure of bad faith on the part of NDIC is inimical to the case of the Plaintiffs against NDIC.
“When statue stipulates a condition precedent which as in Section 55(2) is mandatory, that provision must be complied with. Condition precedent merely puts the jurisdiction of the court in abeyance pending the fulfillment of the stated condition. The name of NDIC is struck out from this suit for want of jurisdiction
“I have aligned section of the Police Act which states :The Police shall be employed for the prevention and detection of crime, that apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and enforcement of laws and regulation with which they are directly charged and shall perform such duties within or without Nigeria as may be required by, or under the authority of the or any other Act and the fact disclosed in the affidavit of the plaintiffs and the defendants, to state that the Police has the constitutional duty to receive Petitions, invite parties and conducts interrogations. The suit is dismissed. There is no order as to cost.”

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