WONDER BANKS TALE OF WOES IN KADUNA

Still grappling with the suitable strategy to refund thousands of investors money trapped in 38 so called wonder banks in Lagos State and other parts of South West Nigeria, another rash of failed investment schemes is in the making in Kaduna State.

Some variants of failed investment schemes in Lagos and other states in South West Nigeria have found operating havens in Northern States after throwing thousands into desperation on the heel of the close down of their operations by the Securities and Exchange Commission. According to reports from Kaduna State, some of these operators set up shops and had successfully drawn participants to their schemes with promises of high returns through forex trading and fixed odds.

The first of such operators to take to their heels are those behind Gold Trust International. The operational mode of Gold Trust International has close resemblance to the banished operators in Lagos. Payments to the scheme are to be made directly into a designated bank account. In the specific case of Gold Trust International, accounts were operated in BankPHB and Skye Bank. 

To participate, investors are to buy tons with one ton priced at N10,000 with a reward of N22,500 with the highest ton of 500 priced one million naira with a return of N2,400,000. The ton in Kaduna can easily translate to the slots sold by the schemes operators in Lagos. Reward are to be paid after eight to 10 operational weeks, just as it was promised in the Lagos and other South West schemes.

 Investigations have, however, revealed that the operators in Northern Nigerian cities like Kaduna have become smarter. Rather than wait till the bubble burst for the scheme and most likely get arrested, as soon as the operational weeks were getting near, they closed shop and took to their heels. Most of the investors that participated in the scheme are simply left confused.

As things stand, it may seem that the Securities and Exchange Commission have been caught napping despite its exposure to the way the schemes operated in Lagos and other South West States. It may even become more difficult to refund investors in Kaduna State because there are no accounts to be frozen with investors being hopeful of a refund based on the money retrieved from the bank accounts of various operators as it is being expected in Lagos. The worrying fact is that the operators in Kaduna and other parts of the North had cleared their bank accounts and flee with their loots.

Does this mean that the SEC does not have a monitoring that would be proactive enough to locate and truncate the operations of these wonder banks before they start defrauding people?     

“It is the responsibility of the Securities and Exchange Commission to monitor the investment community and be alert to the flourish of any form of investment scheme that does not conform to the requirements of the regulatory authorities.” A capital market operator said in response to the growing fear of the fraudulent activities of wonder bank operators that had found easy preys among many investment minded Nigerians in Kaduna State.” A capital market operators responded

“When there is a massive number of victims of illegal investment schemes as happened last year in Lagos and other part of south west Nigeria, my conclusion is that the Securities and Exchange Commission has not been up and doing in constantly monitoring the environment. Part of the law asserts that any form of scheme involving money and monetary reward for participation must be registered with the Commission, you can ask what effort the Commission staff have made to probe the activities of these schemes which products are usually brazenly advertised in newspapers and publicized through posters and banners in urban cities like Kaduna.”

When Fortune and Class Weekly checked with the Commission office, Mr. Oloyi, the Commission’s spoke person was not available, however, an official who refused to be named said the Commission is yet to receive any form of complaint relating to the activities of wonder banks in Kaduna State.

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Customer Protests e-Banking Fraud at GTBank

 When Mr. Friday Musa, made the extra effort to track sums of money allegedly illegally transferred from his account with GTBank to two accounts with the same bank, he thought he had resolved his banking woes that had made him about N1million poorer. The resolution of his tiff with the bank over the illegally transferred fund was no near resolution even as he presented argument that since there were evidence that the money fraudulently transferred from his account can be tracked to accounts within the bank should have made it easier for the bank to investigate the fraud and refund him his money accordingly.

Musa’s one million naira travail commenced this past Sunday, 6 July, 2008 when he noticed that his email password was not functional. According to Musa, he had rushed to the Opebi-Ikeja branch of the bank where he usually conducted his banking services, on Monday 7 July, 2008, to inform the appropriate official of his fears and suspicion over the non functionality of his email password.

“I was directed to an officer in the bank branch who took my complaint after which he gave me an update form for a new email password.” Musa said. “I had sincerely thought that the email password malfunction was just a mere glitch so I thought nothing of it after I had filled the update and was rest assured the password would have changed.”

“But three days there after, I was at the bank to make some withdrawals from my account only to be told I could not make withdrawal of the sum I required. I was told that four transactions involving withdrawals had been illegally conducted on my account via the internet banking platform of the bank, even as I was informed that the email password change that I had earlier requested had not been effected.”

The simple explanation of the banking troubles of Musa is that he had fallen victim of e-banking. e-banking is supposed to be a convenient banking platform that enables a bank customer to transfer funds at anytime of the day from his account to another accounts or other accounts.

Musa said he did not make such transaction and was even more bewildered when no SMS Alert of the transactions was sent to his mobile phone as it is the practice with GTBank.

Musa’s account was systematically raided between Friday 4 July, 2008 and Sunday 6 July 2008. Naturally, Musa took issue with the bank through a letter dated 10 July 2007. In the letter, he insisted that he did not conduct any form of e-banking transaction during this period and pleaded with the bank to HELP him out of the trouble.

GTBank, through a letter dated 14 July, 2008 gave a terse response to Musa’s pleas. Enyinna Mbagwu and Lanre Kasim, signatories to the letter informed Musa that after conducting an investigation occasioned by Musa’s letter, they were able to ascertain that the sum of N250,000 was debited to the account on 4 July, while on 7 July, three debits were made on the account: N249,000, N250,000, and another N250,000 totaling N999,000. They explained that online transactions done on weekends and other non-working days usually have a value date of the next working day. This addendum might have been highlighted in the letter to explain the fact that the notification of the need to change password made by Musa on the made he reported the malfunction of his email password to the Opebi branch of the bank was belated.

The authors of the bank’s letter to Musa further submitted that the internet transfers were made using his profile.

“To this end, we believe your details must have been compromised…In view of the above, we regret to inform you that the bank cannot accede to your request of a refund of N999,000…Please accept our sympathy on your loss.” The letter concluded just before sarcastically thanking Musa for his continuous patronage of the bank.

But then, Musa won’t be assuaged. “See, I suspected something suspicious was going on because I had always refused the e-banking platform just as I detested using even the ATM, I like to be conservative about my banking transactions because of my fears of fraudulent issue like this.” Musa opined

“Now knowing that I may not be able to make any headway with the bank this way, I demanded that they should track the transfers. At least, that should be simple enough, this is different from a cash withdrawal where the fraudulent person would have taken the money and walked out of the bank into thin air. In this case, the bank can easily track which account the money was transferred to and identify the owner(s) of the account. But GTbank refused to budge in this regard. To effect this, I asked my lawyer to write them resulting in the lawyer’s dispatch to the bank on 22 July, 2008 only for them to reply by a letter of 7 August, 2008 that merely asserted their earlier position on the matter.

“My worry now is that I am sure the money was transferred from my account to other accounts domiciled in GTBank and all I expect them to do is to investigate these accounts and come up with conclusion. If they are reluctant to do these they should simply refund my money so I can concentrate on my business. The distraction is affecting me negatively.” Musa said.

When Fortune and Class Weekly sought to check the allegation with the corporate affairs department of the bank, the front office officials insisted that was no need to see anybody at the corporate affairs department because the matter was a private issue between the bank and its customer, and it is our believe that Mr. Tayo Aderinokun, GTBank’s MD, will not be all pleased about this.