The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has ordered the Management of MTN Nigeria Communications Limited to immediately refund the sum of $8billion ($8,134,312,397.63) illegally repatriated by the telecoms company to the coffers of the apex bank. Not satisfied, the CBN also imposed sanctions totaling N5.87 billion on four commercial banks under its regulatory purview for flouting extant laws. Specifically, CBN asked the banks to refund the sum of $8,134,312,397.63 for what it described as 'flagrant violation of extant laws and regulations of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, including the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1995 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Foreign Exchange Manual, 2006'. The four banks that came under the hammer of the CBN for the violations are Standard Chartered Bank, Stanbic-IBTC, Citibank, and Diamond Bank. Announcing the decision in Abuja yesterday, CBN's director, Corporate Communications, Isaac Okorafor, said that the actions of the bank became necessary following allegations of remittance of foreign exchange with irregular Certificates of Capital Importation (CCIs) issued on behalf of some offshore investors of MTN Nigeria Communications Limited and subsequent investigations carried out by the apex bank in March 2018.
CBN, therefore, asked the Managements of the banks and MTN Nigeria Communications Limited to immediately refund the sum of $8,134,312,397.63 illegally repatriated by the company to its coffers. Figures obtained from the CBN yesterday indicate that the highest fine of N2,470,604,767.13 was slammed on Standard Chartered Bank, while Stanbic IBTC Nigeria was fined the sum of N1,885,852,847.45. For its punishment, Citibank Nigeria was penalised in the sum of N1,265,541,562.31, just as Diamond Bank was directed to pay the sum of N250 million for violating extant rules. The CBN spokesman further disclosed that the decision of the apex bank followed thorough investigations into the allegations of remittances by the four banks of forex with irregular certificates of Capital Importation (CCIs) issued on behalf of some offshore investors of MTN Nigeria Communications Limited.
He said the investigations revealed that the sum of $3,448,119,321.72 was repatriated by Standard Chartered Bank on the basis of the illegally issued CCIs. Similarly, he said 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, respectively during the period 2007 and 2015. Accordingly, he said the CBN has directed the affected banks to immediately refund the respective sums to the CBN. The CBN investigation further revealed that on account of illegal conversion of MTN shareholders' loan to preference shares (interest free loan) of $399,594,146.00, the sum of $8,134,312,397.63 was illegally repatriated by the company. While disclosing that the investigations by the CBN took a while in order to carry out thorough inquiry and give fair hearing to all parties involved, Okorafor advised all banks and multinational companies in Nigeria to adhere strictly to the provisions of all extant laws and regulations of Nigeria in their foreign exchange transactions. He warned that failure by the management of banks and companies to abide by the existing guidelines would be appropriately sanctioned, which may include denial of access to the Nigerian foreign exchange market.