By Nkeremwen Cosmas
In this era of the three powerful I’s-Internet, ICT and iPhone, business deals can be sealed with the swiftness of touching a tab in either of them in the name of e-business: Fast-paced and genuine transactions become viable in the blink of an eyelid. But the human factor must always be factored in, just in case things go wrong.
This is the bitter truth that Mr Chukwudi Julius Caesar Ndigwe has come to learn albeit in the hands of someone he believed to be a friend.
Ndigwe is Chief Executive Officer of Chudek Investments Limited, a real estate company, with office in Lagos state. His vision for a better future led him towards making plans to diversify his business with the combination of electronic means and someone who posed as an investment planner. Through a long-standing friend he was introduced to someone whose CV was rich with local and international investment links and contacts. Subsequent ‘business meetings’ left him with the conviction that he was indeed dealing with an investment banker with capacity to make quick transfers to the United States of America.
Ndigwe soon came to the realisation that he had been introduced to a smart alec who operated as a bank director; but was actually an easy going conman who used Wall Green Properties Limited as front. His name? Mr Wale Lawal and his accomplice, Mr Emeka Nkwoji.
Ndigwe’s realisation that he had been betrayed came back to him after he had authorised his bank to transfer some N44.3m into the accounts of Wall Green Properties Ltd, for onward conversion to dollars and transfer to his accounts domiciled in Wells Fargo, in Atlanta, the United States of America.
The more Ndigwe waited for feedback on the transfers, made on his behalf by the ‘investment banker’, the more hope waned and the more the reality that he may have been duped came back hitting him. For him, the betrayal was like a knife put through his heart. Today, he lives with the pain more so as the man whom he gave his money is free and walking the streets, attending high profile weddings and birthday parties and clubbing freely in high-end SUVs, while he lives with the pain of his loss.
All the “deals” occurred in 2016. And now Ndigwe is a victim seeking justice, which entails total recovery of his money from his ‘friends’. Trusting in the slow, but steady justice system in the country, Ndigwe started by petitioning the Inspector General of Police and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. In a petition to the IG, Ibrahim Idris dated September 1, 2016, Ndigwe, through his lawyer, narrated what transpire between him and Wall Green Properties.
In the petition titled “Petition Against Mr. Wale Lawal of Wall Green Properties Limited and Emeka Nkwoji for obtaining the sum of N44,360.000.00 by false pretence”, received at the IGP’s office on September 2, 2016, Ndigwe’s counsel, Pius Nnoli esq narrated his client’s ordeal:
“Our client is businessman, real estate developer and director of Chudek Investments Limited and Virgin Gate International Limited. He is resident both in Nigeria and the United states of America.
“On or about the first week of July 2016, Mr. Emeka Nkwoji introduced Mr. Wale Lawal to our client and falsely presented him as a senior staff of Diamond Bank Plc.
“Being that Mr. Nkwoji is the in-law to our client’s close family friend, our client became quite relaxed in his dealing with Mr. Nkwoji and Mr. Lawal.
“Mr. Nkwoji further assured our client that Mr. Lawal is his next door neighbour and that both reside at Nos. 114b and 116b Association Drive, Dolphin Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos state respectively.
“Mr. Wale Lawal confirmed his identity misrepresentation by Mr. Nkwoji and further falsely represented to our client that he is the Manager in charge of the Foreign Exchange Department of Diamond Bank Plc, and could assist him with foreign exchange purchases and, or, transfers at very competitive rates and in good time.
“Our client became quite interested and told Mr. Lawal that he needed to buy United States dollars for onward transfer to his accounts in Atlanta.
“Our client struck a bargain and on Mr. Lawal’s directive, our client transferred a total sum of N44,360.000.00 (Forty-Four million, three hundred and sixty thousand Naira), in three tranches to the account details provided by Mr. Lawal namely, WALL GREEN PROPERTIES LIMITED. The details of the transfer payments made by our client are as follows: (a) 13th July 2016: N10,000,000.00 from his Virgin Gate International Limited Account at Zenith Bank Plc. (b) 28th July 2016: N32,000,000,00 from his Chudex Investments Limited account at Zenith Bank Plc. (c) N2,360,000.00 also from his Chudek Investment account at Zenith Bank Plc.
L-R: Ndigwe’s authorisation letters to his Nigerian banker, Zenith Bank, Plc
“Our client waiting with much anxiety for the transfers to his own account in Atlanta, which never came as promised, but later came in bits into his account.
“In the course of waiting for the transfers, our client exchanged many telephone calls and electronic text messages with the nos of Mr. Lawal and Mr. Nkwoji.
“Mr. Lawal was later to give his other address as No. 57 Lafiaji Street, Dolphin Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos state.
“Our client was most distressed when he later received communication from his bankers, Wells Fargo, of Atlanta, United States, that stolen funds were transferred to his account.
“Our client was equally to learn from his Atlanta bankers that the Montezuma Police Department has issued a subpoena against his account and has commenced criminal investigation.
“Our client pleads total innocence of the criminal activities of the duo of Mr. Nkwoji and Mr. Lawal.
“Our client further pleads total innocence as to the source of his own funds as he is a legitimate businessman.
“Our client is a victim of fraud committed against him wherein his hard earned investments funds were cheated out of him.
“We join our client to request your good office to assist in the recovery of the funds and prosecution of the criminal suspects”.
Efforts made to reach Lawal on his telephone lines 08033336969 and 08175215716, could not go through. He also did not respond to electronic messages sent to him.
Nnoli however attached necessary evidence including those of the transfers to Wall Green Properties and letters from Wells Fargo and Police Department in Atlanta in the United State of America.
Speaking on the issue, heartbroken Ndigwe simply said “I want my money back so I can focus on my business. I have learnt not to trust anyone ever again”.
Despite these, justice seems a far cry for Ndigwe while he lives with the pain of betrayal by persons he believed were friends. He looks forward to the Nigerian justice system to serve him justice, and also take justice to Lawal and Nkwoji while also saving other members of the society from falling victims to the duo. Contacts with Force Headquarters, Abuja yielded no response on the matter.
1-3 Barrister Pius Nnoli’s petition to the IG on behalf of his client
L-R:The EFCC Petition and Ndigwe’s USA based banker Wells Fargo letter