Concord Times Cries Foul Over Alleged Skye Bank’s Financial Impropriety

By Amin Kef Sesay

The Concord Times, in some of its recent publications, categorically alleged that several newspaper outlets have fallen prey to some fraudulent activities taking place within the precinct of Skye Bank under the watch of the Management of the bank.

It also pointed out that while other banks are maintaining high ethical standards in terms of banking procedures, Skye Bank is neck-deep into encouraging fraudsters that are bent on defrauding newspaper outlets of their meagre resources.

The Concord Times claims that an account in the name of a certain Indian Businessman, Rakesh Sham Tahiramani, was established at the bank where cheques payable to Concord Times, were fraudulently deposited.

The media outlet stated that documentary evidences in the possession of Concord Times revealed how the bank is being used as a safe haven for a certain criminal cartel, whose job is to defraud newspaper outlets to the extent of rendering them bankrupt.

It added that while it has no dealings with the bank, evidences in their possession revealed how the institution’s cheques running into nearly five hundred million Leones, were cashed out at Skye bank without the prior knowledge of the Management of Concord Times.

According to the Concord Times some of its staff, who were allegedly involved in the said fraudulent act, are currently being investigated by the Police, but the bank has refused to furnish the Police with certain information that would aid their investigation.

In response to this allegation, the Management of Skye Bank said it wishes to  informing members of the public series of publications in the Concord Times Newspaper dated 11th, 12th and 13th day of January 2021 respectively were specifically directed at the Bank on allegations, which according to Management, are defamatory and reflect negatively on the image of the Bank.

It furthered that they note with grave concern the allusions of impropriety, fraud and description of events that had been particularly designed to portray the Bank in a negative light and cause maximum embarrassment and severe reputational damage intended to lower the reputation of the Bank in the eyes of the public.

Management said in sum, the referred publications stated that: The Bank as an institution is encouraging fraudsters that have defrauded the newspaper by serving as a “safe haven” to the referred fraudsters by not being supportive of an investigation that is currently being carried out at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID).

It continued that the Bank wishes to unequivocally indicate that it has always complied with its statutory obligations and has never sought to protect any customer and/or member of staff that may be involved in any impropriety and fraud.

“The Bank has always prided itself in complying with due process in every undertaking in accordance with prescriptive rules, banking customs and express provisions of the law,” it underscored adding that it is in the light of the above that the Bank wishes its customers, counterparts and the general public at large to note the following: By a letter dated 26th June 2020, the solicitor of the Concord Times Newspaper (Concord Times) informed the Bank of certain alleged financial impropriety that were being orchestrated by employees of Concord Times. They stated that the impropriety was in the nature of cash withdrawals that were made from a particular account of the Bank which was to the tune of Le40, 000,000.00 (Forty Million Leones).

Management said upon further enquiry by the Bank, Concord Times divulged that from the period of January to June 2020, its employees that were responsible to collect cheques had duly collected certain cheques and commenced the practice of endorsing cheques made payable to Concord Times with all the relevant legitimate signatures and stamps for the benefit of third parties instead of paying same into the bank account of Concord Times, which would have been the standard practice.

It went on to state that the Bank, upon learning about the incident informed Concord Times that it was going to consider the possibility of paying Concord Times the referred amount whilst, it expects Concord Times to fully investigate the matter on the part of their employees, whilst the Bank will locate the customer, and any other person involved, thereby ensuring that the Bank is adequately indemnified for the Le40, 000,000.00 (Forty Million Leones) that it would have given to Concord Times.

The Bank, Management said, did not have any choice but to honour cheques that were duly indorsed to the benefit of its own customer(s), who were third party indorsees on the cheques.

According to the Bank’s Management, that practice went on for quite a while without any complaints being received from Concord Times. It said the Bank was therefore shocked and dismayed to receive report of alleged fraud in June of 2020.

It would appear, Management said,  after the practice had commenced, individual employees of Concord Times hit on the idea of diverting cheques made in favour of Concord Times to third parties on be known to Management of Skye Bank.

After receiving that information, Management continued, whilst the Bank was in the process of carrying out its own internal investigations and carefully locate any customer that may be involved in the alleged impropriety, suddenly and inexplicably Concord Times revealed that their own internal enquiry had now revealed that the amount involved was no longer Le40,000,000.00 (Forty Million Leones) but Le480,000,000.00 (Four Hundred and Eighty Million Leones) and the time span of the alleged fraud by their employees was no longer limited to the period of 6 months but was now within a period of 4 years.

This new revelation, it went on, immediately necessitated the Bank to inform Concord Times that both parties should have their solicitors present at the next meeting.

Meanwhile, it revealed, Concord Times’ solicitors had addressed a letter to the Bank requesting the release of certain information regarding the account of a customer of the Bank, which request could of course not be acceded to by virtue of the Bankers Books and Documentary Evidence Act 1879, The Banking Act 2019 and other legislations that regulates the affairs of banking in Sierra Leone.

Management said to the utmost surprise of the Bank, when Management staff of Concord Times attended the meeting, they alluded that the Bank was supposed to pay them the referred Le480, 000,000.00 (Four Hundred and Eighty Million Leones) because the Bank had initially contemplated the possibility of settling the Le40, 000,000.00 (Forty Million Leones) claim during the previous meeting they had with the Bank.

The General Manager of the Bank – Ikubolaje Nicol, then indicated to the team from Concord Times that the new allegation by Concord Times was very novel to the Bank and entirely different from the subject matter or quantum involved in the previous meeting.

At that point, the General Manager immediately sought further information from the management team at the meeting regarding the status of the employees at Concord Times that were suspected to have been involved in the diversion of the alleged funds. In response thereto, the team from Concord Times casually indicated that the suspected employees had been identified and were under suspension.

It was at this juncture that the General Manager of the Bank was constrained to inform the team from Concord Times that having regard to the nature and scale of the allegation, the newspaper ought to have made a report to the Police in order for a criminal investigation to be launched, as it was clear that for the sum of Le480,000,000.00 (Four Hundred and Eighty Million Leones) to be continuously diverted within the course of 4 years without any detection from the Concord Times accounts department, would only mean that there is a syndicate reflective of a criminal enterprise within Concord Times that was effectively geared towards siphoning monies off Concord Times.

Moreover, the General Manager said a reasonable man will be suspicious of the fact that such an alleged scheme had proceeded for 4 years without any detection from Concord Times.

He further unequivocally indicated that any present or past employee of the Bank who may have aided such a criminal enterprise that was devised within Concord Times would be surrendered to the Police together with operators of any bank account that may have been used in furtherance thereof.

Management of Skye Bank pointed out that  the Management team from Concord Times however, whilst acknowledging their mistake in not reporting the alleged incident to the Police as a reasonable institution was expected to have done, were still suggesting the possibility of the Bank taking the responsibility of paying the Le480,000,000.00 (Four Hundred and Eighty Million Leones).

It was also stated that it was at that point that the solicitor representing the Bank at the meeting indicated that the Bank would be inclined to know those who are criminally liable at Concord Times and for criminal liability to be clearly established against all perpetrators of the alleged incident, subsequent to which Management of the Bank as well as Management of Concord Times would be clear as to what went wrong and examine where the liability of payment/refund/indemnity lies.

In addition, the General Manager indicated that Management is accountable to the Board of Directors of the Bank who are further accountable to the shareholders, thereby placing the Bank in the position where it ought to justify and account for the disbursement of monies of such nature.

Oddly, it was at that point of the meeting that a member of the team from Concord Times resorted to a strange insinuation that the Bank would want to settle the incident quietly because Concord Times had the tool of publication in the print media and that other newspapers had been allegedly defrauded in a similar manner and thus, it will not be in the best interest of the Bank to have these matters published.

The Bank viewed this as an attempt by Concord Times to direct its attention at recovering from the Bank monies for which liability had not been established, rather than focusing on unravelling the syndicate of criminal enterprise that had been subsisting within their institution for the past 4 years.

It was highlighted that subsequent to the meeting, the Bank learnt that based on its advice and recommendation Concord Times finally made a report to the Police in respect of which an official investigation was opened against employees of Concord Times that had been involved in allegedly diverting cheques from the institution and covering it up for the past 4 years.

Whilst the Bank was hoping to receive formal and proper request for information to enable it assist in the investigation, an officer identifying himself as a personnel of the CID came to the office of the General Manager sometime in November of 2020 and requested that he be provided with information of an account holder and other transactional details thereof.

The General Manager informed the CID personnel that the Bank will require a formal request for the information that is been sought to which the personnel responded that CID had made a request to FIU and FIU had declined the request.

Skye Bank’s General Manager then reiterated that it is unconventional to respond to an informal request particularly in the manner that was being employed by the personnel, and therefore encouraged the CID personnel to formally make a request for effective reference of the Bank, especially as FIU had declined their request and there was no letter or written communication from CID to the Bank. After that date, no further request and/or communication was made to the Bank, whether written or oral. In the premise, the Bank therefore viewed the publications as malicious and designed to intimidate or coerce the Bank into paying monies for which the Bank is totally not liable.

Management of the Bank has categorically stated that theirs is  a financial institution that has consistently built its impeccable reputation by adhering to rules and ensuring that their mode of operation is in consonance with the acceptable standards of the laws governing the industry.

It continued by stating that is in such spirit that the Bank wishes to resoundingly emphasise that it has not and will not condone any nature of fraudulent activity whatsoever. Similarly, it will not serve as a “safe haven” to any customer or person that remotely engages in any form of fraud, financial impropriety or improper conduct.

Management therefore lamented that the inflammatory and potentially libellous nature of the three articles that have been published by Concord Times are misguided in content as well as misleading in the narrative outlines of what had transpired, and will not serve to coerce or blackmail the Bank into paying monies that the Bank is not liable for.

It continued that meanwhile, the general public is assured of the highest standard of banking services at all times at Skye Bank.


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