The Federal Government has arraigned the publishers of the Daily Times Newspapers, Fidelis and Fred Anosike, over alleged fraud.
The Federal Government has charged Fidelis and Noel Anosike, publishers of Daily Times Newspaper (DTN) with fraud.
According to a charge against the defendants before the High Court in Abuja with number; CR/222/18, the Prosecution Counsel, Festus Keyamo (SAN), who is standing for the Nigeria Police explained that it was a case of conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, criminal misappropriation, cheating and theft of property belonging to the DTN.
The charge document also detailed how pursuant to the Federal Government's privatisation programme in 2004, its 96.05 per cent shares in the DTN were put for sale by the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE), bid for which Folio Communications emerged the highest with a bid of N1.250 billion, “but had no money to make payment.”
“What Folio did in the circumstances was to obtain a co-investment of N500,000,000.00 from DSV Ltd (owned by Senator Ikechukwu Obiorah in exchange of 40% of the said shares. DSV paid the sum of N500m directly to BPE,” the charge paper read.
“In order to raise the remaining N750,000,000.00, Folio resorted to the following; It illegally created fixed and floating debentures over the assets of DTN in favour of Hallmark Bank and collected N750,000,000 from the Bank.
“Folio was unable to repay Hallmark Bank. The Bank obtained a Court Order appointing a receiver/manager over DTN. This precipitated law suits culminating in the consent judgment entered by the Federal High Court in Suit No. FHC/L.CP/594/2005 wherein Folio was ordered to pay Hallmark Bank the sum of N950m consisting of the original N750,000,000.00 and accumulated interest.
“Instead of using their own money to pay the N950,000,000.00 as mandated by the consent judgement, the defendants (Fidelis Anosike, Noel Anosike and Folio Communications Ltd) once again resorted to DTN's assets as follows:
“They converted N500,000,000.00 belonging to DTN (realised from sale of DTN's interest in Stock Exchange Building, Lagos) in defraying part of the N950,000,000.00 leaving outstanding the sum of N450,000,000.00.
“They took the sum of N135,000,000.00 directly from DTN'S account with Afribank PLC vide a bank certified cheque which they paid to Hallmark Bank-in-Liquidation leaving a balance of N315,000,000.00
“To repay the remaining N315,000,000.00, they applied for a loan in the name of DTN mortgaging DTN'S Corporate Headquarters at Agidingbi-Ikeja, Lagos as collateral and converted the sum of N315,000,000.00 to their use which they paid to Hallmark Bank -in-Liquidation. (However, the Senator Ikechukwu Obiorah led shareholders raised fresh shareholder-fund towards repaying this loan).
“Thus the defendants completed the repayment of the N950m to Hallmark Bank -in-Liquidation without putting even a farthing of their own money, using only resources belonging to DTN.
“The charge document also stressed that despite the removal of Fidelis Anosike and Noel Anosike as Director of DTN by the Extra Ordinary General meeting of the company on February 1, 2010, the duo have illegally been publishing and selling to members of the public, The Daily Times Newspaper and other titles belonging to the DTN”.
The duo was also accused of obtaining the sum of N19,000,000.00 from Senator Obiorah in 2005, and another N100,000,000.00 from his company, Harlesden Engineering Ltd “by falsely repressing that Folio Communications Ltd had a printing factory for sale at Lugbe in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, when in fact no such factory existed.”
But in a reaction, Folio, in its statement, signed by the managing editor of Daily Times newspaper, Bonaventure Melah, dismissed the allegations by the Police.
“This same case has gone to the Court of Appeal where in 2010 the Court of Appeal ruled that the matter was purely civil with the no criminal ingredients. Inspectors General of Police have investigated the case severally and put it in black and white that it is a civil case of ownership,” Melah wrote.
“Privatisation is different from commercialisation. Federal Government of Nigeria through the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) advertised to sell Daily Times. Folio, like many other companies bided to acquire Daily Times and after very rigorous but transparent process, Folio emerged the preferred bidder. Folio went ahead to fully pay for Daily Times and the government duly handed over the company to Folio,” he added.
'AMCON takes over Daily Times'
Meanwhile, the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) on recently took over the assets of Daily Times Nigeria Plc, a foremost media establishment over huge outstanding loan.
The corporation in a statement signed by its Head, Corporate Communications, Jude Nwauzor, said that the take over was in continuation of AMCON recovery activities in the new financial year.