BY ORIAKU IJELE
Mum is the word at the Abuja office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, following allegations of discreet investigation of the activities of Olam Nigerian Ltd, an Indian conglomerate operating in Nigeria, which is alleged to have perpetrated forex round-tripping activities worth over $50b, during the Presidency of Muhammadu Buhari.
Some top officials of the agency, refused to confirm or deny the alleged malfeasance, when Sunday Times contacted them over the development.
Although the mandate smacked of an attempt by the Federal Government to undermine the constitutional role of the EFCC, there are insinuations in many quarters that the government briefed the DSS to dig deeper into the activities of Olam Nigerian Ltd and its subsidiaries, as they were purported to have routinely obtained foreign exchange at the official window only to resell to Nigerian oil importers and end users of forex at black market rates during the period under review.
An APC chieftain, Imran Muhammed alleged that: “DSS is investigating a mega economic fraud involving Olam Nigeria Limited, Olam International and their nine subsidiaries to the tune of over $50billion.
“In a chain of round-tripping foreign exchange deals since 2015, the company, through its Special Purpose Vehicles, SPVs, had booked about $34 billion with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, as capital importation at official rates.
“But instead of investing the money into the Nigerian economy, sources said the company round-tripped the forex and sold to business men, especially oil and gas marketers and industries such Indorama and Fouani, at parallel market rates.
“Investigation revealed that Olam usually directed the forex buyers to lodge the naira equivalent into the account of one or many of its SPVs during the period under review.
“Although some of the companies have fictitious Nigerians as directors, the accounts are solely managed by the Indian expatriates, some of whom are based in Europe and Asia.
“As the SSS opens probe into the FX fraud and anchor-borrower scheme deals that took place under the suspended governor of CBN, Godwin Emefiele, the country’s secret police has uncovered a chain of shell companies linked to Olam.
“Sources said security agents uncovered traces of transfers into accounts controlled by Aminu Yaro, one of the ‘fronts’ of the embattled CBN governor.
“Mr Yaro, who was previously investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has been in SSS detention since July 12.
“Findings revealed that the SSS had invited some expatriates, including the MD/CEO of Olam Nigeria Limited Ashish Pande and some top officers of the company, namely Prakash Kanth, Sudhir Goenka, Niraj Shah, Chandrasekran Balaji and Venkataramani Srivathshan.
“The SSS also invited the Chief Financial Officer of Crown Flour Mill Limited, Rajeesh Damodaram Valagulam. According to sources, Crown Flour Mill Limited is one of the major Olam subsidiaries in Nigeria.
According to insiders, Olam Nigeria Limited and their subsidiaries are the key FX speculators that contributed to the declining value of Nigerian currency, naira.”
Olam, which started operations in 1989 has a yearly turnover of almost $45bn.