The special anti-fraud unit of the Nigerian police today in Lagos arrested the former managing director of InterContinental Bank, Mahmoud Lai Alabi, for fraud related to a questionable loan write-off.
Mr. Alabi’s arrest followed a petition submitted to the unit by the brother of a whistleblower who was allegedly assassinated by hired killers for revealing shady dealings involving Bukola Saraki, the once-powerful governor of Kwara state who is now a senator.
Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, current Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), had appointed Mr. Alabi to run InterContinental Bank at the start of the CBN’s controversial banking reform. The reform began with the CBN’s sacking of several commercial bank chief executives deemed to be linked to corruption, and the appointment of new CEOs by Mr. Sanusi.
However, the appointment of Mr. Alabi raised serious concerns at the time. Mr. Alabi had served as the managing director of Songa Farms which is owned by the Saraki family. Mr. Saraki's businesses owed some 32 billion naira to InterContinental Bank.
In a 2010 petition, the former MD of the bank, Erastus Akingbola, wrote a 9-page petition to President Goodluck Jonathan stating that Mr. Alabi had improperly written off N8 billion in loans to companies with links to Saraki. He gave the companies’ names as Linkers, Dicetrade, Skyview Properties and Joy Petroleum.
Police sources told Saharareporters that Mr. Alabi did write off billions of naira in unserviced loans linked to Mr. Saraki. In addition, Mr. Alabi decided to release four houses in Lagos and another two in Abuja that the Sarakis had been used as collateral to secure the huge loans.
The Saraki family is notorious for its history of gutting banks. A source who is a banking expert disclosed that the family misappropriated funds from Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria and used part of it to sponsor runs for elective offices in 2003. The funds enabled two members of the Saraki clan, Ms. Gbemisola Saraki and Bukola Saraki, to become a senator and two-term governor of Kwara State respectively.
In a telephone conversation earlier today, Senator Saraki insisted that the whistleblower was not assassinated but had died of natural causes. He also contended that the arrest of Mr. Alabi arose out of a dispute between the former bank executive and the whistleblower’s brother, adding that the Saraki family should not be dragged into the matter.