The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has invited the Chairman of HEDA resource Centre for a “chat” with the Commission over its May 23, 2012 petition demanding the investigation of a Nigeria currency scandal between 2006 and 2008, a development HEDA believes indicates EFCC’s readiness to move on the matter.
According to a statement today by Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju, the chairman of HEDA, Akaninyene Enzima, the Commission’s Head of Advance Fee Fraud, signed the EFCC invitation, dated August 22, 2012.
HEDA’s petition had demanded the investigation and prosecution of servicing and retired government officials indicted in the scandal which stemmed from the printing of polymer Naira notes during the tenure of Professor Charles Soludo at the Central Bank of Nigeria between 2006 and 2008.
The petition charged both the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to, undertake this investigation and prosecution as empowered by laws establishing both institutions.
The story relates to the current Naira bills which were allegedly printed in Australia in a fraudulent deal, following which The Age, a local newspaper, reported that former workers at Securency, The Reserve Bank of Australia’s currency firm, had told the police the firm produced millions of partly made Nigerian banknotes without authorisation from the Nigerian authorities.
In effect, the former staff said, that was counterfeiting. The newspaper reported that the Australian Federal Police had subsequently investigated Securency over alleged bribery of foreign officials, including Nigerian and Vietnamese officials, to win contracts in these countries.
HEDA’s petition, according to Mr. Suraju, drew attention to the fact that The Age reported that Securency paid some N750 million in bribes to some officials of the CBN between 2006 and 2008 in order to secure the contract to make polymer notes for Nigeria, channeling the bribes through Benoy Berry and Michael Harvey, two British businessmen.
Continued the HEDA chairman, “The petition reminded the anti corruption institutions of a publication of Sydney Herald that on September 29, 2009, a day before the launching of the N5, N10 and N15 polymer notes, Benoy Berry, one of the British businessmen sent a letter to Myles Curtis (then Managing Director of Securency International Pty Limited, an Australian company) alleging a breach of contract and accusing the bank note company of bribing top officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria to secure contract for Securency. He also accused Securency of breaching polymer-based mint planned to be established in Nigeria as part of principled objectives of transferring technology to developing nations.”
He added that according to the organisation, the Australian Federal Police Authority sent a high level confidential security memo to the Presidency through the Office of the National Security Adviser detailing a bribery probe that centered on the series of multimillion-dollar payments by Securency into offshore bank accounts of the two British-based businessmen for onward transfer to Nigerian Government Officials to secure the bank-note deal.
“Prominent amongst the names featured in the secret memo were that of the then CBN Governor, Charles Chukwuma Soludo, senior officials of the finance ministry and a former president,” the statement said.
It is unclear at this time whether the EFCC has started any investigations in earnest, or whether any of the former government officials have been invited. If so, it would be uncharted territory in the handling of corruption issues in Nigeria, where the so-called anti-corruption agencies routinely avoid any matters, no matter how scandalous, which affect powerful people.