For one of the newest entrants into the Nigeria’s banking industry, Heritage Bank Plc and embattled telecommunications firm, MTN Nigeria, these are not the best of times as the duo has continued to swim in the sea of controversies. And as it stands, the bank and the telecoms outfit are fast becoming safe havens for fraudulent officials.
Reports available to TheIcon indicate that officials of Heritage Bank, which came into existence under a new name just a few years ago, is currently on the top watch of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
In a stunning development after nearly three months of investigation, the Police Special Fraud Unit (PSFU) on Monday July 10, 2017 arrested 11 suspected fraudsters, including three Heritage Bank officials and two MTN employees over N150 million fraud.
This newspaper gathered that they were allegedly siphoning money from bank accounts using phone numbers linked to customers account obtained from shady MTN workers. Police said the gang was working across the country.
Communications giant, MTN, has been rocked by revelations about the improprieties of staff who help criminals to swap SIM cards of targeted bank customers.
The unit’s spokesman, ASP Lawal Audu confirmed the arrest at the unit’s office in Ikoyi, Lagos disclosing that staff of Heritage Bank and the MTN have secretly run an information sharing business robbing unsuspecting bank customers of millions of naira.
The fraud unit describes how scores of unknowing victims from the bank have been snookered by the bank and communications outfit.
The suspected bankers are Oyelade Shola-Isaac, 32, Osuolale Hammid, 40, and Akeem Adesina, 33, while the network service provider’s employees include Okpetu John, 29, Chukwumnoso Ifeanyi, 30 and Salako Abdulsalam, (ICT specialist), 30.
Other suspects were Ismaeel Salami, 49, Akinola Oghuan, 34, Sarumi Abubakar, 32, James Idagu, 56, and Sunday Okeke, 33. The unit spokesman stressed that they were all arrested in Lagos, Ibadan and Ilorin.
Audu noted that the job of the banker’s suspects was to provide the syndicates with information of the bank customers with funded accounts that were not into internet banking.
He said that the network provider’s suspects assist to swap the SIM cards (GSM numbers) of the targeted bank customers so that they will be unable to receive alert of any transactions on their accounts within the period that their accounts were being siphoned.
The spokesman said the suspects transferred the money siphoned into about 40 other accounts with ATMs in different other banks. Audu said that the suspects usually carry out their operations during the weekends and public holidays to evade being detected by the bank monitoring mechanisms or the owners of targeted funded accounts.
“The effort of the police team eventually paid off when the same group was holding their final meeting at eateries along Bode Thomas Street, Surulere, Lagos on the concluded plan to unleash another monumental fraud on unsuspecting customers.
“Their plan was to defraud other new generation banks between May 26 and 29, 2017. Detectives stormed the venue during which one of the major kingpins claimed to be Alhaji Ismaeel Salami and four members of the syndicate were arrested.
“Thirty-five ATM cards affixed with account numbers and passwords were immediately recovered from them.
“It was, however, revealed that this criminal syndicate usually sourced these bank ATM cards from their owners, especially among the vulnerable youths deceiving them to release their ATM cards, account numbers and passwords for eventual monetary rewards based on the amount their card receive,” he said.
The spokesman, therefore, advised members of the public to be careful of fraudster’s activities, warning them against giving out bank detains to strangers.
Audu said that the suspects will be charged to court as soon as investigation is concluded.
A police investigator said details emerged of astonishing levels of malfeasance at the MTN as regards to diverting customers calls. Speaking under the condition of anonymity she said the South African-owned telecoms company has become synonymous with fraud on the most massive (and global) of scales.
“The extent of MTN staff crimes, chronicled in detailed investigation in this case is breathtaking,” she concluded.
All attempts to speak with the spokesperson for Heritage Bank, Mr. Fela Ibidapo proved futile as his mobile line was not reachable, while MTN Funso Aina neither picked his calls nor responded to text message sent to his mobile phone.
Source: PerSecond News with additional report by Sylvester O. Sylvester.