Six Nigerian central bank officials were charged with fraud in an 8 billion naira ($40.2 million) currency scam.
The Economic Financial Crimes Commission has revealed that several top officials of the CBN colluded with numerous commercial banks to dupe the country of a sum amounting to N9bn.
Six CBN bigwigs and eighteen senior officials of commercial banks in the country are to be tried.
The Economic Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC said on Sunday that it is ready to prosecute Patience Okoro Eye, Afolabi Olufemi, Kolawole Babalola, Olaniran Muniru Adeola, Fatai Yusuf Adekunle, and Ilori Adekunle Sunday, all top officials of the Central Bank from various states, and officials of several private banks in the country.
The scam involved the “theft and recirculation of defaced and mutilated currencies,” the anti-graft agency stated. The officials are set to be arraigned on Tuesday.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) also held 16 private bank workers for the "mega scam".
The suspects stole "tonnes of defaced naira notes", which were meant to be destroyed, it said on its website.
The suspects allegedly filled boxes supposed to contain damaged currency with bits of newspaper cut into the shape of naira notes, before sending them to branches of the Central Bank of Nigeria for destruction, according to the EFCC.
The actual banknotes were held back so that they could be reused, it adds.
A statement from EFCC's spokesperson Wilson Uwujaren, gave insight into the matter.
All the suspects who are currently in the custody of the EFCC are now ruing the day they literally allowed greed and craze for materialism to be loud their sense of judgement and responsibility, when they elected to help themselves to tones of defaced Naira notes. Instead of carrying out the statutory instruction to destroy the currency, they substituted it with newspapers neatly cut to Naira sizes and proceeded to recycle the defaced and mutilated currency.
The fraud is partly to blame for the failure of government monetary policy over the years as currency mop up exercises by the apex bank failed to check the inflationary pressure on the economy.
The lid on the scam which is widely suspected to have gone on unchecked for years, was blown on November 3, 2014 via a petition to the EFCC alleging that over N6, 575, 549, 370.00( Six Billion, Five Hundred and Seventy-Five Million, Five-Hundred and Forty-Nine Thousand, Three Hundred and Seventy Naira) was cornered and discreetly recycled by light fingered top executives of the CBN at the Ibadan branch.
The suspects, who were members of the Briquetting Panel, plotted their way to infamy on September 8, 2014, while carrying out a Briquetting exercise at the CBN Branch, Ibadan.
In banking parlance, Briquetting is disintegration and destruction of counted and audited dirty notes. By this practice, depositor banks usually take mutilated notes to the CBN in exchange for fresh notes equivalent of the amount deposited.
The depositor banks in this instance are Zenith Bank, FCMB, Wema Bank, Access Bank, First Bank, Skye Bank, Ecobank and Sterling Bank.
But while carrying out the assignment, the team were alleged to have found one of the currency boxes filled only with old newspapers rather than 20 bundles of N1000 notes.
A similar case, according to investigation, had been discovered on September 22, 2014 when a box that was supposed to contain N500 notes to the tune of N5billion was filled with old newspapers.
Unlike in the past, this fraud could not be swept under the carpet, as a member of the Briquetting Panel from the Osogbo branch blew the lid on the illicit deal. In a statement, the informant stated that the exercise was designed to last between August 4 and 8, 2014.
The 35-year-old, however, stated that she discovered a strange ‘sight’ while opening the third box on the second day of the exercise. It was a discovery that beat her ken.
She added that she confronted the other members of the panel, including Eye, Head, Briquetting Panel; Treasury Assistant; Coordinator and Head, Security, CBN, Ibadan, who all assured her that they would look into it. But she later found out that it was all a ruse. She said she later found out that Eye not only maintained sealed lips over the matter but omitted it from her report.
A five-count charge awaits the suspects as they prepare to face the wrath of the law.