Integrity and reputational issues have been raised as a former manager of Heritage Bank , one of Nigeria’s commercial banks faces trial for alleged fraudulent diversion of customers funds to personal use.
This follows as Fidel Omeje, an erstwhile manager of Heritage Bank’s Onitsha main market branch in Anambra State, was on Thursday hauled before Justice D.A Onyefulu of the State High Court, Onitsha.
The accused is facing trial for alleged fraud and stealing of customer’s funds totaling about $50,000. The action, to many, is not only unethical but also raises integrity issues around the Bank as she purportedly committed the crime while serving as a branch manager at Heritage Bank.
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The suspect who was arraigned in court Thursday, October 8 by the Enugu zonal office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was accused of using his privileged position both as a manager of the bank as well as an account officer to the said customer to withdraw the designated sum from the depositor’s (complainant) ‘s domiciliary account on July 20, 2011, without the requisite mandate and converted same to personal use.
Counsel to the EFCC, Mr Mike Ani, in his own account told the court that the offence which was committed by the suspect “ is contrary to Section 342 of the Criminal Code Law Cap 36, Anambra State and punishable under Section 353 (6) and (9) of the same law”, arguing that the suspect should accordingly be made to face the full weight of the Law.
However, the defendant who pleaded not guilty to the charges said she was challenging the allegations as raised by the prosecuting counsel. Ms Omeje’s counsel, J.R. Nduka who subsequently moved a motion for her client’s bail, underlying the fact that the alleged offence in question for which his client is being arraigned was a bailable offence.
Justice Onyefulu subsequently granted Ms Omeje’s bail application in the sum of N20 million and a surety in like sum, ordering the defendant to ensure that the surety must have evidence of tax payment, and landed property within the jurisdiction of the court.
The trial Judge also asked the defendant to deposit the designated documents with the Court registrar as a pre-condition to be granted bail.
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While adjourning the case to November 26, this year, Justice Onyefulu ruled that the surety must swear to an affidavit of means and produce two passport photographs each of himself and the defendant.
Recall that not too long in the past, the EFCC had similarly declared a former employee of Heritage Bank wanted for an alleged N27 million fraud.
According to the anti-graft agency, the suspect, one Mrs Ayanlola Temitayo (nee Bademosi), was declared wanted in an alleged case of conspiracy, forgery and obtaining money under false pretences.
The Bank’s staffer was accused of forging a customer’s documents and using same to dubiously obtained a loan facility by utilizing the said customer’s ﬁxed deposit as collateral to secure the said facility.
The EFCC had said, “All eﬀorts to execute a duly signed Warrant of Arrest obtained from the Magistrate Court 1, Iyaganku have so far proved abortive. The suspect is at large while all eﬀorts to apprehend her have proved futile.”
It would be recalled that Heritage Bank Plc which is conventionally called Heritage Bank , is one of Nigeria’s frontline commercial banks. It offers retail banking, corporate banking, online/internet banking, investment banking and asset management services.
It would also be recalled that about eight years ago, its core investor, IEI Plc, through IEI Investments Limited, had acquired SGBN license from Nigeria’s apex Bank, thus meeting all eligibility criteria and protocols as determined by the CBN.
In line with this, the bank reportedly returned 100% of existing SGBN account holders’ funds to their owners, and thereafter emerging as Heritage Bank Plc, a large financial institution with a license as a National Bank..
The Bank has its historical roots in the later period of the 1970s when it was birthed by the then Second Republic Politician and Senate leader, late Chief Olusola Saraki, popularly called by many admirers then as Oloye.