N5.87b fine: CBN reviews new evidence from banks, MTN

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is reviewing new evidence from four banks and MTN Nigeria over the sanctions slammed on them by the regulator, it was learnt yesterday.

The banks – Standard Chartered Bank, Stanbic-IBTC, Citibank and Diamond Bank – were last month fined N5.87 billion by the apex bank for breach of capital importation policy.

The CBN had accused the banks of remitting foreign exchange with irregular Certificates of Capital Importation (CCIs) issued on behalf of some offshore investors of MTN Nigeria Communications Limited. The banks and MTN Nigeria have denied any wrongdoing.

According to the CBN, the lenders were asked to refund $8,134,312,397.63 for what it described as ‘flagrant violation of extant laws and regulations of the country, including the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1995 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Foreign Exchange Manual, 2006’.

In a statement yesterday, CBN Director, Corporate Communications, Isaac Okorafor, said: “In response to the recent regulatory actions, the banks and MTN are engaging the CBN and have provided additional information which is currently being reviewed with a view to arriving at an equitable resolution.

“We assure all investors that the integrity of the CCI regime remains sacrosanct and there shall be no retroactive application of foreign exchange rules and regulations.”

The regulator also defended its N5.87 billion fine on the banks over alleged capital importation breaches on $8.1 billion transactions involving MTN Nigeria. The apex bank has insisted that the sanctions will not deter foreign investors from coming to invest in Nigeria.

Okorafor, said the apex bank acknowledges the public interest over sanctions recently imposed on four deposit money banks (DMBs). The apex bank said it welcomes all legitimate investors to take advantage of the enormous investment opportunities in Nigeria.

“We wish to restate that the CBN will continue to welcome foreign investments and investors. Indeed, some of our recent innovations and reforms of the Foreign Exchange regime such as the introduction of the Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange (NAFEX) window are designed to simplify foreign exchange regulations.

“Furthermore, the delegation of the issuance of Certificates of Capital Importation (CCIs) to commercial and merchant banks some years ago was done to instill confidence in the investor community and encourage the flow of foreign direct and portfolio investments into the Nigerian economy.

The sanctions on the banks arose due to irregularities with respect to repatriations made on behalf of MTN Nigeria Limited and were not in any way designed to restrict access to investor returns.

“In response to the recent regulatory actions, the banks and MTN are engaging the CBN and have provided additional information which is currently being reviewed with a view to arriving at an equitable resolution.

“We assure all investors that the integrity of the CCI regime remains sacrosanct and there shall be no retroactive application of foreign exchange rules and regulations”.

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