EFCC arrests Labinjo, wife over $6.5m ship purchase scandal

Embattled President of the Nigerian Shipowners Association of Nigeria (NISA), retired Capt. Niyi Labinjo and his wife, Bola were yesterday arrested and detained by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

They were arrested at the anti-graft agency’s office in Ikoyi, Lagos in connection with a ship purchase scandal involving them and an indigenous shipping company, Acenk Maritime and Energy Services Limited.

The couple were detained overnight at the EFCC office and had not been able to meet their stringent bail condition.

It would be recalled that SHIPS & PORTS DAILY had reported exclusively in its edition of Monday 26th January 2014 that Mrs. Adenike Jolapamo-Onifade, daughter of the founder and immediate past Chairman of NISA, Chief Isaac Jolapamo, had accused Labinjo and his wife of allegedly diverting part of a USD5.85million loan facility granted by a first generation commercial bank to her company, Acenk Maritime and Energy Services Limited for the purchase of two vessels. Jolapamo-Onifade had dragged the couple before the EFCC.

Usually reliable sources informed SHIPS & PORTS DAILY that EFCC officials had on Wednesday last week sent a letter to NISA asking the association to produce their President latest by Monday this week. The Labinjos were said to be out of town at the time. The EFCC operatives visited their home and offices in Apapa where they arrested one of his staff and wife’s younger sister, one Abigael Ezeibe. They also towed away three luxury cars allegedly acquired by the Labinjos over the past three months. The couple were arrested yesterday when they went to the EFCC office in honour of the invitation.

In her petition, Jolapamo-Onifade had accused Capt. Labinjo and Mrs. Bola Labinjo of diverting close to $2million out of a $6.5million deal to acquire an oil tanker and a fast speed intervention vessel (FSIV). The commercial bank gave a facility of USD5.85million while the beneficiary company was expected to make an equity contribution of 10 per cent or $650,000.

Jolapamo-Onifade said that while the FSIV was purchased and delivered to Nigeria, the Labinjos failed to remit the remaining $2.3million for purchase of the oil tanker.

She said a good part of the $2.3million had found its way from the shipbroker, Radunia International Corporation of Greece into various company accounts said to be owned by the Labinjos. She said after waiting for more than a month without any headway, she approached one of her friends at Fidelity Bank where the Labinjos maintain their company accounts where she discovered that rather than pay for her 5,000dwt oil tanker with the balance $2.3million, Radunia had been transferring the money into various accounts allegedly belonging to the Labinjos.

She claimed that Radunia severally transferred money to Transunion Credit Agency Nig. Ltd, Global Shipping Activities Bureau Limited and Soughtafter International Synergy Ltd – all companies Jolapamo-Onifade claimed are owned by Labinjo and his wife.

She alleged that a total of $1,125,530 (N216million) of the first generation bank loan had been transferred by the supposed shipbroker, Radunia International Corporation to the companies.

The telex transfer documents revealed that Radunia transferred USD220,000 to Transunion Credit Reporting Agency Nig. Ltd on 17/10/2014; USD20,000 on 6/11/2014; USD300,000 on 17/11/2014 and USD350,000 on 25/11/2014.

Radunia also transferred USD230,000 to Soughtafter International Synergy Ltd on 6/10/2014 and USD5,530 to Global Shipping Activities Bureau Limited on 6/11/2014.

But when contacted, Labinjo denied having any business transaction with Jolapamo-Onifade.

“I am aware she had a business transaction with my wife. They had an MoU but along the line, there was a breakdown of the agreement. Trust was also lost. I am aware also that there are arrangements to return all the loan to her so that she can go her way since the working agreement is not working,” he told SHIPS & PORTS DAILY.

When asked how soon he thinks Acenk Maritime & Energy Services Limited would get the money back, he said “very soon”.

Reacting to the SHIPS & PORTS DAILY article on Tuesday last week, General Secretary of NISA, Mr. Tunji Brown disclosed that the association would investigate the matter and ask Labinjo to step down as President if need be.

“I am currently consulting with the executive members but we want to set up a committee quickly to look at the allegations and the position of the association is; if they are found to be true, we will ask the president to step down.

“That is the position but we want to set up a committee to look at them quickly. This will be done today (yesterday) because we are going to meet with him and if they are found to be true, we will ask him to step down. We cannot allow that. So that is what we will be doing today on the matter,” Brown told SHIPS & PORTS DAILY.

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