From FRED ITUA, Abuja
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arrested the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and an aspirant in the 2010 governorship poll in Anambra State, Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo.
His arrest, according to a source at the EFCC office in Abuja, was in connection with the Australian polymer banknotes bribery scam, which occurred between 2006 and 2008 when he held sway as CBN governor. Confirming his arrest, Head of Publicity of EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren said Soludo was arrested yesterday morning, adding that he was in the custody of the commission.
“We have Soludo in our custody and it is part of an ongoing investigation over his involvement in the award of contract and printing of polymer banknotes when he was the governor of the CBN.” Operatives of the EFCC arrested Soludo at his Abuja residence. A source at the commission who confided in Daily Sun hinted that other senior CBN staffers who served during Soludo’s tenure were being detained as well as those from the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company Plc.
The source declined to disclose the names of others currently being detained along with Soludo. A close source, however, told Daily Sun correspondent that 12 others were also in the commission’s custody.
It was further gathered that Soludo, alongside others involved in the scandal, might be arraigned as soon as ongoing investigations were concluded by the commission. “As soon as the commission concludes its ongoing investigations and we have enough evidence, Soludo and others will be charged to court,” the source hinted.
The commission’s spokesman however debunked insinuations that Soludo’s arrest was connected with any perceived political difference with the presidency over his unwavering support for former vice president Atiku Abubakar during the 2011 PDP presidential primaries. Investigations by the EFCC and Soludo’s arrest were sequel to a petition written by Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) in May 2012, calling on the commission to investigate contract scam in the award of polymer banknotes printing.
According to the Chairman of HEDA, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju, the petition had demanded the investigation and possible prosecution of serving and former government officials, particularly CBN staffers indicted in the scandal which resulted from the printing of polymer naira notes during the tenure of Prof. Soludo between 2006 and 2008.
The petition had requested both the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to pursue the investigation and prosecution as provided by laws establishing both commissions. The current naira bills which were allegedly printed in Australia in a questionable deal, following which a local newspaper had reported that former workers at Securency, The Reserve Bank of Australia’s currency firm, had told the police the firm produced millions of partly made Nigerian banknotes without authorisation from the Nigerian authorities.
The newspaper report had noted that the Australian Federal Police had subsequently investigated Securency over alleged bribery of foreign officials, including Nigerian and Vietnamese officials, to win contracts in these countries. HEDA’s petition, according to Mr. Suraju, drew attention to the fact that the newspaper report that Securency paid N750 million in bribe to some officials of the CBN between 2006 and 2008 to secure the contract to make polymer notes for Nigeria, channelling the bribe through Benoy Berry and Michael Harvey, two British businessmen.
HEDA chairman said: “The petition reminded the anti corruption institutions of a publication of Sydney Herald that on September 29, 2009, a day before the launch of the N5, N10 and N15 polymer notes, Benoy Berry, one of the British businessmen sent a letter to Myles Curtis (then Managing Director of Securency International Pty Limited, an Australian company) alleging a breach of contract and accusing the bank note company of bribing top officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria to secure contract for Securency. “He also accused Securency of breaching polymer-based mint planned to be established in Nigeria as part of principled objectives of transferring technology to developing nations.”
He had added that the Australian Federal Police Authority sent a high level confidential security memo to the Presidency through the Office of the National Security Adviser detailing a bribery probe that centred on the series of multi million-dollar payments by Securency into offshore bank accounts of the two British-based businessmen for onward transfer to Nigerian government officials to secure the bank-note deal.
“Prominent among the names featured in the secret memo were that of the then CBN governor, Frof. Soludo, senior officials of the finance ministry and a former president,” the statement by HEDA had stated.