The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has arrested a retired naval captain, Okorie Ogbonnaya, for allegedly defrauding Oceanic Bank Plc (now Ecobank Plc) of over N540m.
The commission also arrested Ogbonnaya’s lawyer, Emmanuel Mbajuwon, for conspiring with his client to perpetrate the fraud.
EFCC Head of Operations, Iliyasu Kwarbai, explained that the 51-year-old Ogbonnaya committed the alleged fraud under the pretext of importing bags of rice from Thailand for Cooperative Federation of Imo State.
He said Ogbonnaya took a loan of N196m from the bank and also caused the bank to lose $2.4m after the bank had issued him a letter of credit to a foreign bank.
He said, “Sometime in 2011, Ogbonnaya, who is the owner of Akaeze Ventures Enterprise, approached Cooperative Federation of Imo State saying he could supply them with rice below the market value.
“Ogbonnaya was able to obtain a bank guaranty from Imo State Government to Oceanic Bank and subsequently got a letter of credit from the bank worth $6.5m.
“The rice manufacturers, based on the documents received from Oceanic Bank, supplied Ogbonnaya with the rice and also gave him $90,000 to be used for logistics and other miscellaneous affairs which would be refunded to the manufacturers after the rice had been sold.”
The EFCC alleged that the retired naval officer squandered the $90,000 which should have been used for clearing the goods.
Kwarbai alleged that the suspect, in desperation, urged members of the cooperative to pay N20m in advance for the rice and also approached the bank for a loan of N196m to finance his business.
He said, “Ogbonnaya approached his lawyer, Mbajuwon, to stand surety for him and he took a loan of N196m from the bank. The shipment was supposed to be the collateral but Ogbonnaya was able to clear the goods and sideline the bank.
“Mbajuwon was also able to get a court order restraining the bank from having access to the rice and soon after, Ogbonnaya disappeared, making it difficult for the bank to trace him even after the bank was able to overturn the dubious court order.”
The EFCC alleged that the suspects were able to sell all the rice without giving the bank any of the money.
It was also alleged that the suspects opened a joint account with First Bank of Nigeria Plc, where they deposited the money and later transferred to a foreign bank.
Kwarbai added, “Ogbonnaya sold only a portion of the rice to the cooperative and then moved others to some other companies at the market value. Yet, after getting all this money, he did not pay Oceanic Bank a dime.”
It was learnt that when the bank was able to locate the suspect, only bags of rice worth N1m, were left.
It was also gathered that Ogbonnaya did not even pay for the rice that had been bought, causing the foreign bank to obtain another $2.24m from Oceanic Bank.
Kwarbai said, “Since Oceanic bank was the one that issued a letter of credit for Ogbonnaya, and he did not pay for the rice, Oceanic Bank was compelled to pay the money thereby incurring a double loss.”