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‘Suspicious $160m forex deal triggered freezing of 11 bank accounts’

Apex bank obtains court order to freeze 194 other accounts

Suspicious foreign exchange transactions in excess of $160 million, linked to illegal forex operators, may have informed the order by the Federal High Court in Abuja that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) should freeze bank accounts belonging to 11 customers.

Authoritative sources close to the apex bank, while sharing this position with New Telegraph, were of the view that the CBN may have sought the court order to enable it investigate suspicious transactions on the accounts strongly linked to illegal foreign exchange operators in excess of $160 million.

Recall that the apex bank, on Wednesday, April 7, 2021, published on its website, the list of 11 bank accounts which the Federal High Court had ordered it to freeze for a period of 45 days, pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation.

Investigations revealed that the bank accounts, owned by a certain Albert Austin Ugochukwu and five other business concerns, were suspected to be involved in operating as illegal foreign exchange operators; an act that contravenes the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring & Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1995 and Section 58(1) of the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA) 1991 (as amended).

On the application of the CBN, the court ordered the bank to direct the head office of FCMB to freeze all transactions on the bank accounts listed on the motion paper for a period of 45 days only pending the outcome of investigation currently being conducted by the CBN.

While directing the CBN to publish the order on its website within three days from the day the ruling was delivered, the court ruled that the order was renewable on expiration, but only for good reasons shown. However, it stated that persons affected by the order were entitled to approach the court to seek to set aside, discharge or have the order reviewed for good reasons shown. Acting Director of the Corporate Communications Department, CBN, Osita Nwanisobi, refrained from commenting on the issue.

However, he gave assurance that the CBN would do all within its mandate and the extant laws of the country to check any act contrary to its goal of ensuring sanity in the Nigerian foreign exchange market. Osita noted that the CBN’s statutory mandate, among others, conferred on it a duty to maintain external reserves to safeguard the international value of the naira.

He said the bank would not shirk in its core mandate, hence, it would carry out actions to check pressure on the foreign exchange rate. Meanwhile, in a related development, the CBN, yesterday, posted three separate rulings by the Federal High Court in Abuja, which authorised the regulator to direct deposit money banks to freeze, for 45 days, a total of 194 bank accounts belonging to several individuals and firms.

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