MTN’s $8.1bn scandal: CBN refutes claims by Senate

 

Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele on Tuesday denied allegations by some Senators that it has reduced the $8.1bn the Nigerian government ordered MTN to refund to $800 million.

The refund had been imposed on the telecoms for currency regulations infraction.

CBN had accused MTN of violating currency regulations by sending $8.1 billion abroad.

It also fined four banks, Standard Chartered N2.4 billion ($7.8 million); Stanbic IBTC Bank N1.8 billion; Citibank N1.2 billion and Diamond Bank N250 million over the fund transfer.

While the telecoms denied any wrongdoing and approached the court for redress, the CBN held out an olive branch, saying it was open to negotiating the refund figure downward.

At its meeting of Tuesday, the Senate alleged that a whopping $7.3billion had been discounted without recourse to it.

It therefore, mandated its Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, headed by Senator Rafiu Ibrahim, to probe the alleged reduction by the federal government through the CBN.

According to Ibrahim, Emefiele had in October hinted in London of plans by government to slash the $8.1 billion figure to $800 million.

The senator noted yesterday in a telephone interview with National Assembly correspondents that though the Senate was not particularly against whatever the government would want to do with the MTN refund, it should be informed why the reduction became necessary.

Ibrahim said his committee would immediately demand for CBN report on the matter to be better informed.

Asked if the committee may likely pursue the matter further, Ibrahim said, “Definitely, I will call the Clerk to ask the CBN that we are expecting their report as promised at the retreat.

“In the report, if we find anything close to this, I will let you know. We will write them and probably give ultimatum for the report. This is a very sensitive thing to the economy.

The Senate adopted a report last year largely exonerating MTN of alleged illegal repatriation of $14 billion out of the country.

It also asked the CBN then to sanction Stanbic IBTC Bank “for improper documentations in respect of capital repatriation and loan repayments” on behalf of MTN.

This followed the consideration of the report of its committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, which investigated alleged unlawful repatriation of $14 billion from Nigeria.

Emefiele was quoted to have said during a visit to London, “I don’t think the MTN fine will be staying at $8.1bn,” adding that he expected the issue to be dealt with amicably and equitably.

“I want to believe that the figure will reduce. Whether it will be dropped completely, I honestly cannot say at this time,” the CBN governor added.

But in a swift reaction last night, the CBN Director, Corporate Communications, CBN, Mr. Isaac Okorafor, denied the alleged reduction of the refund.

“There is no such thing. I have no such knowledge,” he said.

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