Finance & EconomyNews

CBN moves against banks, gaming companies over unauthorised FX transfers

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has moved against some banks through which some gaming companies have been making unauthorised foreign exchange transfers abroad.

Consequently, the apex bank has placed a post-no-debit (PND) instruction on the bank accounts of 38 companies, including Premier Lotto Limited, SV Gaming Limited, R & S Lotto Limited, over allegations of foreign exchange manipulation.

Apart from the gaming companies, the CBN, THISDAY learnt, would deal decisively with management of banks found culpable in the shady transactions.

Already, First City Monument Bank (FCMB), through which about $420 million was reportedly moved abroad without lawful authority has been queried and asked to explain why disciplinary action, including management change, should not be taken against it.

It was learnt that there had been a lot of gaming and illegal transfers abroad by the company in collusion with some banks.

The apex bank, it was learnt, has decided to put a stop to the underhand deals in the interest of the economy.

The CBN, in a letter addressed to all banks, dated September 4, 2020, and signed by its Director of Banking Supervision, Mr. Bello Hassan, a copy of which was , directed that the bank accounts of the 38 banks should be frozen.

The letter stated: “You are hereby required to place the under listed accounts on PND with immediate effect and revert with the account names, numbers, currencies and balances of all accounts placed on PND.”

With the PND placed on the accounts of the companies, transactions won’t be allowed on the accounts.

Other companies, whose accounts were frozen, are Over the Top Entertainment Limited, Beaufortbet Nigeria Limited, TM Gaming Network Limited, Fumsky Bureau De Change, 3D Scanners Bureau De Change, Blue Sleevers Bureau De Change Limited, Maiburgama Bureau De Change Limited, Upront Movers Limited, Pocasharks Ventures, Incel Trading & Supplies Limited and Savvy Corp Limited.

Also on the list are Barkoli Trading Company Limited, Comm. Professional Limited, Blue Wall Nigeria Limited, JNFX International Limited, Suxus General Trading Limited, Escale Oil & Gas Limited, Triune Resources & Energy Limited, Exchange Telecommunications Limited, Vingt Communications Limited, Incel Mega Resources Limited, Camberwell Logistics Limited, Godoni Enterprises Limited, and Crescentpillars Investment Limited.

Others are Carisbrooke Global Enterprises, Nitegale Global Resources Limited, Northline Limited, Befour Energy & Allied Services Limited, Tasmara Integrated Services Limited, Incel Integrated Services Limited, Laketrail Investment Limited, Tamrose Ventures Limited, Roots Mining Company Limited, Rapid International Procurement Limited, and Springcreek Capital Limited.

Shedding more light on the reason for freezing the bank accounts of the 38 companies, a top CBN official, who pleaded to remain anonymous, accused them of illegal purchase of forex and repatriation of same abroad.

The official said: “To be honest, these are some of the people who have been putting pressure on the black market. They are so many and we are going after them gradually and we would ensure that they face the law.

“There is impeccable proof that one of the gaming companies, (name withheld), is suspected to have illegally siphoned over $420 million over a period of 18 months under the pretext of paying for software that can be procured by local software engineers. These funds were illegally transferred to their companies in Mauritius solely for the purposes of money laundering and economic sabotage.”

According to the official, the plan by the CBN is not only to penalise the companies, “but also the banks and their managements that allowed such illegal transfers to go through their systems.”

He described the activities of the companies and the banks that enabled them as economic sabotage, money laundering and insider trading, saying CBN will ensure not only prosecution but withdrawal of the licences of those found wanting.

“CBN is going to punish these companies and individuals to serve as a deterrent to others.

“Those of them involved in the gaming business, their business is in naira. Some of them would say they are paying for technical services. Assuming they even have the approval to take money out, why are they not in the official market? Why go to the black market? That means there is something illegal they are doing without documentation.

“We are accusing them, especially the gaming companies, of money laundering, illegal transfer of forex out of Nigeria. Most of them open accounts in Mauritius and other safe havens for them to move monies out of Nigeria and then do whatever they like.

“Now, they would say they are paying for technical services. Were those fees authorised officially by the CBN? The sole institution responsible for forex dealing in Nigeria is the CBN. Did they obtain the CBN’s approval?

“They don’t even have the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP) approval, even if they say it is for software purchase, as some of them claimed. Indeed, one of them that went to NOTAP, the approval wasn’t granted because the so-called software they claimed they wanted to import can be manufactured locally,” he added.

The official alleged that the companies had contravened the Money Laundering Act, which carries with it stringent penalties that include the withdrawal of their licences and prosecution.. – Thisday

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