Fresh graduates did everything to secure employment as bankers. It was a metter of pride being addressed as a banker. But all that seems to be becoming history. According to the police, bankers are now on top of the list of wanted persons for fraud and other criminal acts.
The police say the once revered sector has been infested by “hardened criminals” whose stock in trade is to employ scientific methods of defrauding their employers and fleecing billions of naira from customers’ accounts.
The sharp practices, the police say, has been heightened by the recent cut in salaries and rationalisation, the after-effect of the restructuring in the industry.
The reorganisation of banks brought about the merger of weaker banks with financially stronger ones. The police attributed the hi-tech stealing in the industry to greedy drive to sustain a lifestyle of extravagant spending synonymous with some employees before the recession and mass retrenchment. Relying on the report of investigations, the police alleged that bankers perfect criminal acts over time as many of those involved in sharp practices do not use their correct home addresses while applying for jobs.
Their employers, the police claim, do not take the pains to verify the details contained in the application forms.
According to the statistics from the Police Special Fraud Unit (SFU), Milliverton Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, there are more bankers on the list of the most wanted criminals. Sources at the SFU told The Nation that no fewer than 50 bank officials have been declared wanted by the police this year for various fraudulent dealings.
The report clearly shows that the wanted bankers worked with established fraud syndicates outside their industry, who they assist in stealing depositors’ funds.
In a particular case in Okene, Kogi State, seven officials of a branch of a second generation bank were declared wanted by the SFU for allegedly collaborating to defraud the bank of over N100 million.
SFU spokesperson Mrs. Ngozi Isintume, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), traced the successes recorded in bank frauds to the failure of bank chiefs to apply stringent measures while screening applicants.
She also pointed at lack of proper documentation of employees and the inability of the affected institutions to cross-check information provided by their employers before absolving them. Akinwumi Omoniyi was declared wanted by the SFU for alleged fraudulent conversion of over N23 million, belonging to customers of the bank where he worked.
He allegedly stole the money as the bank’s relationship officer.
Investigations reveal that the deposits made through him were not reflected in the statement of account and that he was also involved in fraudulent booking of overdraft facilities in two different accounts and fraudulent withdrawals from another.
The police gave his last known address as 115, Opebi Road, Lagos and 16, Paul Ikediashi Street, Asaba, Delta State.
According to the report, the 33-year-old wanted banker is from Ilesa, Osun State.
Another suspect, Simon Tyoor Nyikyaa, a Tiv, from Benue State, is wanted by the police for alleged fraud-related offences and stealing from Edgwaters Hotel and Resort, Victoria Island, Lagos.
The 39-year-old, who was the managing director of the hospitality outfit between 2000 and 2012, was accused of fraudulently opening an account to which he directed hotel customers to pay.
He was also accused of forging documents with which he diverted over N4 million to his personal account.
Nyikyaa’s last known addresses are: Beside Union Bank, Gboko Road, Aliade Town, Magic Entertainment Cinema and LGEA Primary School, Markurdi Road, Aliade, Benue. Sixty-year-old Alhaji Mohammed Rotimi Lawal is wanted for allegedly obtaining by false pretence and issuance of a dud cheque in Lagos on June 7, 2011.
It was learnt that Lawal, a former executive chairman of HAS Resources Ltd, obtained 66,000 litres of diesel, valued at N10, 528,000 by fraudulent pretence and issuance of a dud cheque. He went underground after committing the offence and all efforts by the police to apprehend him have not yielded result.
Lawal has relocated from his last known address which he gave as KM 19, Lekki/Epe Expressway, Lekki Peninsula, Lagos.
Innocent Ketevi, a steward and a Togolese has also been declared wanted by the police for alleged stealing of N2 million from his employer. When security operatives visited his last known address at No 12, Orege Str, Ajegunle, Lagos, Ketevi was said to have relocated to his home country.
Patrick Ohekaro, a telecom dealer from Isoko, Delta State has also been declared wanted for alleged conspiracy and obtaining money by false pretence and forgery. It was gathered that the suspect took an overdraft facility of N50 million from a first generation bank in August last year.
There was an agreement that the facility which had a 365-day tenor would be refunded in tranches every 30 days. The suspect allegedly secured the facility with cloned and forged documents.
He has refused to pay the overdue facility and when the case was reported, Ohekaro spurned police invitation for interrogation before he was declared wanted. Police operatives stormed his last known residence at Isoko North Local Government Area, Delta State but nobody identified him as their kinsman.
A sport consultant and the President of National Association of Nigerian Footballers (NANF), Harrison Jalla, is one of those on the police most wanted list. Jalla, an Urhobo from Delta State, is wanted for obtaining money under false pretence, issuance of dud cheques and stealing in Lagos sometime in 2008.
He was alleged to have fraudulently obtained N3 million from the complainants under the pretence of using the money to facilitate their trip to Europe for trials and also to secure foreign football clubs for 15 local footballers.
When he was arrested and detained at the SFU early in the year, it was reported and he threatened to sue the reporter for libel. His name is on the wanted list.
He failed to honour police invitation after he was granted bail.
The police have been on his trail. When detectives visited his No 1, Azamor Street, Ijanikin home, on Lagos-Badagry Expressway and his last known residential address at No 66, Campbell Street, Lagos Island, Lagos, he couldn’t be tracked down as he is believed to have gone into hiding.
Adebayo Joseph Olafusi, an accountant, is wanted for forgery, fraudulent conversion and stealing at Gbagada, Lagos since November last year.
The suspect allegedly forged the signature of his employer on the company’s cancelled cheques leaflets of Union Bank of Nig Plc. and Zenith Bank Plc to the tune of N20, 225,000.
Efforts to get him arrested have failed. Operatives could not find him in his last known address at No 1, Adebayo Joseph Close, Obadore, Igando, Lagos.
Chibuzor Onowu, 33, and Kingsley Okudili, 29, were declared wanted by the Lagos State Police Command for their alleged involvement in the abduction and killing of a businessman, Odidi Nweze on September 4, two days after his return from a business trip to the United States (U.S.). The suspects, who have recolated outside the country after the incident and arrest of their gang members, were declared wanted on October 2, 2012 by the Lagos Command Commissiner of Police Umar Manko.
Mrs. Isintume, who confirmed that more bankers have been arrested for fraud-related offences, blamed the trend on the failure of their employers to have proper documentation of employees; a development, she said, has made it difficult to track the suspects.
She said: “Most of the people we declare wanted are bankers and they plan the operation over a long period of time.
“Within the period, they would have relocated their families from the residential addresses they supplied the banks when they were employed. “Most of them, who already have mindset to defraud the bank even before they are employed, gave the banks fake home addresses.
“Somebody, who is from Ekiti, would say he/she is from Ondo State. So, it is always difficult to find them. The moment a matter is reported and investigation commences, we send invitations to the suspects. “After two months, if we do not see them, we send a reminder, after which the person would be declared wanted if he/she refuses to show up.
“It is with the address that the person gave to the complainant which in most times are the banks that we will go to and most times when investigators get there, they discover that the address is non-exixtent. “We declare anybody who is reported to have committed fraud and refuse to come and answer for it wanted. There is no time lapse. If the person is seen 10 years after he/she was declared wanted, he/she would be arrested.”
The SFU spokesperson said it has not been easy tracking the bank officials declared wanted for defrauding their employer because the banks never went the extra mile to cross-check the addresses supplied by the suspects.
She advised employers, especially banks, to take the pains of scrutinising their employees. Mrs. Isintume suggested that a verification team should be raised to visit then home addresses as claimed in the application forms.