The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has debited Standard Chartered Bank, Stanbic IBTC, Citibank Nigeria and Diamond Bank for helping MTN Nigeria Communications Limited illegally repatriate funds.
The CBN debited the account of Standard Chartered Bank with N2.4 billion, Stanbic IBTC N1.88 billion, Citibank Nigeria N1.2 billion and Diamond Bank N250 million for allegedly issuing irregular Certificates of Capital Importation (CCI) on behalf of some offshore investors of MTN Nigeria Communications Limited. MTN Nigeria was also directed by the CBN to refund $8.134 billion to its coffers.
In a letter to the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), Stanbic IBTC Bank informed investors and stakeholders that CBN had “unilaterally deducted” N1.886 billion from its account with the regulator, despite protestations by the bank that it did not violate any regulation on money remittances.
The apex bank said its investigation was triggered by “allegations of remittance of foreign exchange with irregular Certificates of Capital Importation (CCI)” between 2007 and 2015, in “flagrant violation of extant laws and regulations 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 letter, signed by the group company secretary, Chidi Okezie, and acting head, marketing and communications, Bridget Oyefeso-Odusami, stated: “Following our earlier announcement to The Nigerian Stock Exchange (“NSE”) on 30 August 2018, in respect of the penalty of N1.886 billion imposed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (“CBN”) on our banking subsidiary – Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC (the “Bank”) in relation to the remittance of foreign exchange on the basis of certain capital importation certificates issued to MTN Nigeria Communications Limited, we write to update The NSE that the CBN has debited the account of our banking subsidiary with the CBN for the full amount of the above stated fine advised to the Bank.”
Stanbic IBTC reiterated its position that it breached no extant laws relating to Certificates of Capital Importation (CCI) executed on behalf of MTN. “Stanbic IBTC Holdings PLC as well as our banking subsidiary maintain our position on this matter, which is the fact that the Bank has done nothing illegal and accordingly the bank will continue to provide CBN with documents and details in support of our contention that our actions in relation to these transactions were not illegal,” it said.
The company reassured its stakeholders that the situation would not affect the seamless transactions with the bank.
Stanbic IBTC Bank described the conclusions reached by the regulator as based on “factually incorrect premises”.
Regarding the claim that the shareholders of MTN Nigeria invested $402,590,261.03 in the company from 2001 to 2006, the bank said: “The twenty certificates of capital importation CCIs transferred to our bank by Standard Chartered Bank and which were in the above quoted sum were re-issued from existing CCIs that had been issued by Standard Chartered Bank to the original investors in MTNN.” It added that “these CCIs were transferred to our Bank to facilitate the repatriation of the proceeds of MTN’s Private Placement which took place in February 2008.
A Standard Chartered Bank source said the bank’s account with the CBN was also debited. He said: “I can confirm to you that the CBN has debited all the four banks’ accounts with them today.”
In statement, Citibank Nigeria Limited said: “Citibank Nigeria Limited (Citi) recently received a letter from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) imposing sanctions on Citi for alleged breaches of foreign exchange regulations in respect of foreign exchange remittances done on behalf of a customer, MTN Nigeria Communications Limited”.
“Citibank Nigeria Limited has sent a detailed response to the CBN addressing the serious allegations made in the CBN letter. Citibank Nigeria Limited remains committed to complying with all extant foreign exchange rules and regulations of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” it said.
Standard Chartered Bank, in a statement, said: “As previously disclosed, we are committed to fully co-operating with the regulators on this matter. Whilst we cannot provide additional information due to ongoing engagement with the regulators, we look forward to a rapid resolution and satisfactory outcome of this matter.”