A property development company Grant Properties Limited, has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to cause a probe into an alleged collusion between Sterling Bank Plc and Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria, (AMCON) in the dissipation of the company’s assets to satisfy a facility obtained by the company.
The company said it had secured a loan from a consortium of four banks, including Sterling Bank, Skye Bank, Unity Bank and Wema Bank, to finance the development of an estate, Victory Park Estate, in Lekki, Lagos.
It said the facility was secured via the shares in its subsidiary, Knight Rook Limited, which only asset of about 46 hectares of land in Victory Park Estate.
A similar petition was written to the Central Bank of Nigeria. Both letters, which are duly acknowledged receipt by the Presidency and the CBN, were obtained by our correspondent.
The petitions were signed by Chief Olajide Awosedo (now late) who was then the chairman of the company.
In the petition, entitled: Insider Abuse, Collusion and Fraud: Petition Against Sterling Bank Plc, Mr Yemi Adeola, Mr Yemi Idowu, Ms Justina Lewa & Asset Management Corporation, Awosedo asked the president to intervene to redress the injustice meted out to him and his company.
He also called on the CBN to review the action taken by the bank.
The petitioner said: “We would, however, like the CBN to investigate the legal and ethical issues raised in the insider abuse, collusion and illegal sale of a customer’s assets by Sterling Bank to its directors.”
The company stated that the judgement of a Lagos High Court had established the illegality of their actions, which broke the AMCON Act, the Securities and Exchange Commission laws,
Banking laws and all the ethics of the banking profession.
Among other demands, it asked the CBN to cause a thorough investigation of the insider trading and collusion by Sterling Bank and its top management, Yemi Adeola, Yemi Idowu and Ms Justina Lewa; Compel Sterling Bank to return the 10 hectares of land which Yemi Adeola and Yemi Idowu illegally sold to themselves, to AMCON as part of the collateral. This, itself was in line with the judgement of a Lagos High Court which nullified that sale.
The company also asked the CBN to compel AMCON to recover the 10 hectares of land as its collateral, and apply it toward the N8.5 billion debt obligation.
It said: “AMCON should commission a valuation of the property and take the portion of it which satisfies the obligation, and then return the remainder to us.
“After the obligation is satisfied, AMCON should be asked to issue a letter of release, and return our Knight Rook shares and other properties held by AMCON and the Receiver Manager to us,” it said.
The company said Sterling Bank management in order to ensure that the court verdict the company won was not executed engaged in an intricate web of mind-game, bringing in the AMCON to set obstacles for the company in order to arm-twist it to abandon its judgement it won at the Lagos High Court.
In the petition to the CBN, he asked the apex bank to investigate the dealings of Mr Yemi Adeola and co-conspirators in Sterling Bank and AMCON and ultimately ensure that the ethics of the banking profession is upheld and not be dragged into the mud because of the greed of some individuals in the industry.
The petitioner recalled that at some point in 2009, the project was stalled due to liquidity challenges in the banks, “and they were no longer able to provide funds to continue the development.”
He said: “When AMCON was established in 2011, the banks transferred the loan to the corporation, but Sterling Bank retained the Knight Rook shares and used the same to trade illegally.
“We discovered that Sterling Plc did not transfer all of our collateral to AMCON, instead it diverted 10 hectares of the land, which it secretly sold to its Director, Mr Yemi Idowu, a rival real estate developer.”
The company stated that Mr Yemi Idowu was “appointed to manage the account as the head of the Project Implementation Committee, PIC, comprising the four financing banks and ourselves.
In reality, Yemi Idowu should never have been allowed to manage our account as he was a direct competitor.”
It alleged: “He (Yemi Idowu) had made several controversial attempts to buy the land in the past, with the knowledge of the other Executive Directors and the Managing Director (Sterling Bank), Mr. Yemi Adeola.
The company further alleged that Sterling Bank sold the land to Yemi Idowu, using a proxy company and deposited the sales proceeds of N1.8 billion “into our project account” and immediately withdrew same without the knowledge or mandate of the real estate development company to pay BENA Management Services Limited, another surrogate/proxy company which “Sterling Bank secretly used to purchase houses in the Victory Park Estate.”
The petition read: “We took our case to the Lagos State High Court, to press for our rights. During the course of the case, we discovered that after selling the land to Mr. Idowu for N18,500 per square metre, Sterling Bank immediately sold 2.4 hectares of it to UPDC Plc at the rate of N26,000 per square metre, which would translate to a secret profit of N750 million, assuming that Sterling Bank sold entire 10 hectares, However, it turned out that they only sold 2.4 hectares and kept 6.6 hectares to themselves.”
But while they were in court, the company said Mr. Idowu continued to build on the land in contempt of two separate court orders that parties should maintain the status quo, and stop all construction work on the land pending judgement.
“He has now built an estate on the land, called Cadogan Estate. The estate has more than 300 houses in it, valued at around N30 billion, which is more than adequate to settle our exposure to AMCON,” Grant Properties Limited said.
The company, however, pursued its case to conclusion at the court, “and won Judgement on June 2, 2017.” The following positions were reached and granted by the court verdict:
That Mr. Yemi Adeola, Ms Justina Lewa and Sterling Bank sold our land after they had transferred the loan to AMCON;
That Mr. Adeola, Ms Lewa and Sterling Bank had no right to sell the land, and that it should have been transferred to AMCON along with the loan obligations;
That Mr. Adeola, Ms Lewa and Sterling Bank acted alone, without informing the other members of the PIC; that the sale of the land is null and void.
Consequent upon the judgement, ownership of the land and all developments on it should revert to Knight Rook Limited, and stands as part of “our collateral to AMCON,” the petition further
The company noted, however, that while the case was on, AMCON intervened and referred the matter to the CBN for review, and it (the company) also wrote a petition to the Bank Supervision
Department of the CBN, but “we were told the CBN could not intervene in the matter because we were in court.
“We wrote to AMCON on June 15, 2017, to notify them that we had won our case, and we would like to pay the loan from the land that we had won.”
He stated that the company was surprised when on Friday, June 16, 2017, AMCON sent a Receiver Manager, Mr. Lanre Olaoluwa, an army of thugs and policemen who invaded not only the chairman’s house, but also the company’s offices across several locations, beating up the staff and carted away generators and other valuables, which were not accounted for till today.
“Still the violent team of thugs and policemen returned three days after, on Monday, June 19 2017, to take over the residences of the chairman’s children,” the petitioner added.
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