Court Freezes 65 Accounts For Forex Manipulation

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A court has granted the request by the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN) to freeze 65 Bank accounts linked to 12 firms and a man.

They are suspected to be involved in the manipulation of the foreign exchange market.

Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, gave the order while ruling on a motion ex-parte filed by CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele and argued by former Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mike Aondoakaa (SAN).

Justice Mohamed in the ruling granted the CBN 90 days, in the first instance, to investigate the activities of the firms, who the CBN Governor alleged were involved in the importation of goods not eligible for foreign exchange.

The CBN Governor further alleged that the activities of the firms and an individual identified as Adekunle Olusola Alonge, are “the cause of the current volatility and imbalance in the foreign exchange regime in Nigeria with the attendant negative impact on the economy.”

In the ruling, a copy of which The Nation sighted on Friday, Justice Mohammed said:  ”An order is made freezing all transactions in the bank accounts of the defendants/respondents listed on the motion paper, for a period of 90 days in the first instance, pending the outcome of the investigation currently being conducted by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

“It is also directed that, if the applicant could not conclude investigation and its inquiry within the 90 days given by the court, it can seek an extension of the order, upon an affidavit filed to show the extent of the investigation and the need for the court to extend the period.

“It is further ordered that any person who is affected by this freezing order may apply to the court to be heard in this matter.”

Justice Mohammed then adjourned till November 25 for a report of the investigation.

Listed in the motion as the owners of the affected accounts are: Adekunle Olusola Alonge, Armadillo Integrated Services, FTM Capital Management Limited, Sonora Asset Management Limited, Sonora Capital & Inv Ltd, Sonora Capital Investment Limited, Sonora Capital & Investment  Limited and Sonora Capital and Investment  Limited.

Others are Sonora Capital Investment Limited, Sonora Consult, Sonora Energy & Allied Services Limited, Sonora Energy and Allied. Services Limited, VIP Impress Hollywood Limited and Vlisco Nigeria Limited.

Aondoakaa while arguing the motion, said the affected firms belonged to some Chinese nationals, who were able to access foreign exchange with the invention of the highest levels of governments in Nigeria and China with the promise to engage in the production of textile materials in Nigeria.

He stated that after accessing the foreign exchange, the firms allegedly resorted to smuggling textile materials from neighbouring countries into Nigeria.

The ex-AGF said the investigation being conducted by the CBN was in collaboration with authorities of the Benin Republic, which he said, were also conducting similar investigation.

Aondoakaa had prayed the court for 180 days, but 90 days was granted in the first instance by the judge.

A Deputy Manager in the Governor’s Department, CBN, Innocent Okocha, in a supporting affidavit, said: “The investigation being carried out concerns what has been discovered to be serious infractions by the defendants/respondents in connection with some transactions, and non-documentation by the defendants/respondent in violation of the CBN circular TED/FEM/GEN/01/010 on “Inclusion of some imported goods and services on the list of items not valid for foreign exchange in Nigeria’s Foreign Exchange Market” of June 23, 2015.

“More specifically, there is a grave allegation that the defendants//respondents are engaged in accessing/procuring of foreign exchange from the Nigerian Foreign Exchange Market in furtherance of the smuggling/importation of goods which fall under goods and services prohibited under the circular referenced in paragraph (b) above.

“The aforesaid transactions undertaken by the defendants/respondents using their bank accounts can cause significant financial loss to members of the public if Ieft unchecked.

“A freezing order of this honourable court in respect of the defendants/respondents’ aforesaid accounts would also enable the CBN to investigate the activities of the defendants/respondents to a logical conclusion.

“The activities of the defendants/respondents being investigated are the cause of the current volatility and imbalance in the foreign exchange regime in Nigeria with the attendant negative impact on the economy.”

The Naira at the weekend, fell to N477 to dollar on the parallel market after the Federal Government said it would reopen airports for international travel in two weeks’ time, a move that could increase dollar demand, traders said.

The naira had been stable for over a week on the black market at 475 per dollar, where it trades at more than 20 per cent weaker to the official over-the-counter spot market.

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