FINALLY: EFCC Releases Billionaire Businessman, Tunde Ayeni
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has released billionaire businessman and lawyer, Tunde Ayeni, after detaining him for two days.
Mr. Ayeni was freed Saturday morning after he and other officials of his bank, Aso Savings and Loans Plc, committed to paying up a controversial N1billion naira the former management of the bank allegedly passed to a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Bala Mohammed, those familiar with the matter told PREMIUM TIMES.
Our sources said Mr. Ayeni personally made a cheque deposit of N100 million naira with he and his colleagues promising to pay the balance in the weeks ahead.
When contacted over the matter on Saturday afternoon, Mr. Ayeni said the matter for which he was invited by the EFCC had to do with a transaction carried out by the management of the bank.
“It has nothing to do with me as a person,” Mr. Ayeni said. “This transaction happened in 2010, and I was not even the chairman of the bank at the time.
“But as one of the key stakeholders of the bank, the EFCC asked me for some explanations which I made. The whole matter is clearer to them now, and the matter is being resolved.”
Mr. Ayeni was arrested Thursday in relation with the ongoing investigation of former Minister Mohammed for alleged fraud.
EFCC investigators believe Mr. Mohammed received one billion Naira from Aso Savings, an Abuja-based Primary Mortgage Institution, in yet unclear circumstances shortly after the bank transacted a land swap deal with the FCT administration during the minister’s tenure.
Mr. Ayeni was a former chairman of the bank, and one of its largest shareholders.
An EFCC insider had told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr. Ayeni had to be detained because he kept insisting he did not authorise the passage of any money to Mr. Bala, and that he should not be harassed for the conduct of the management of the bank.
“He was not initially cooperative,” one source said. “We told him point black that we will release him once they pay back the money. The money belong to the bank. So we want to give the money back to the bank.”
The EFCC is investigating Mr. Mohammed, who was arrested on October 24, for alleged financial crimes in excess of N1.6 trillion.
Sources within the agency told this newspaper that Mr. Mohammed, who served from April 2010 until May 2015, was allegedly involved in extensive land racketeering while he was minister.
“After computation of the land deals that he struck, we discovered that more than N1.6 trillion could not be accounted for,” a source said.
The former minister could not be reached to comment for this story.
This is the second time Mr. Ayeni would be a guest of the EFCC.
In 2004, he was arrested in relation with the corruption trial of former Bayelsa Governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.
The businessman was arrested by the commission over the matter and later mentioned in court documents as admitting helping Mr. Alamieyeseigha to execute some deals.
The EFCC has since cleared Mr. Ayeni of complicity in the Alamieyeseigha saga.
In two letters sighted by PREMIUM TIMES, the anti-graft agency admitted Mr. Ayeni was detained and questioned over some transactions during the Alamieyseigha case, but was cleared of all liabilities.
Mr. Ayeni has since then remained one of Nigeria’s most ambitious businessmen, investing heavily in almost all key sectors of the Nigerian economy – oil and gas, telecoms and power.
He was until recently the chairman of Skye Bank and was awarded Commander of the Order of Niger (CON) – a national recognition – by the Federal Government.