The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has uncovered a N1.4bn scam allegedly perpetrated by former top executives of Sosaco Nigeria Limited, marketers of Jago Milk Powder and Jino Tomato Paste.
According to the EFCC, the former Managing Director of the company, Satish Vasudevan; the former Financial Director, Sridhar Ganesa; and the former Marketing Director, Janak Saravan; conspired with two media consulting firms to defraud the company.
PUNCH Metro learnt that the indicted media consulting firms, Fairgate Marketing and Communications Limited and Bethel Marketing and Communications Limited are owned by one Yusuf Bakare, who had been arrested by the commission.
The EFCC Head of Operations, Iliyasu Kwarbai, told our correspondent that the scam was perpetrated between January 2011 and June 2012.
He said, “We discovered that Bakare, who runs the two media consulting firms, had approached Sosaco to offer his services. He subsequently entered into a contract with the management to handle the promotion of four products of the company – Gino Tomato Paste, Pomo Tomato Paste, Jago Powder Milk and Jago Delight for N1,372,285,294.
“Sosaco gave Bakare video and audio recordings to air as television and radio commercials. The adverts were to be aired on over 30 radio and television stations as well as on independent programmes.”
The EFCC explained that the procedure for executing such contract was to obtain a certificate of broadcast or transmission from the stations after each broadcast.
The commission said after obtaining a broadcast certificate, Bakare would go to Sosaco with an invoice and the certificate, after which a cheque would be issued to him by the company
Kwarbai told PUNCH Metro that the purported contract continued until the three directors left the company.
He said, “After the three directors left, a new management took over the company and an internal audit was conducted. During the audit, the company made efforts to verify the authenticity of the broadcast certificates.
“Two media houses were approached and they denied issuing the certificates. The company wrote a petition to the EFCC.”
It was learnt that the EFCC visited about 30 television and radio station in over 20 states in the country.
The media houses, however, denied issuing certificates to Bakare or his companies.
One of the letters issued to the EFCC by one of the media houses, Imo Broadcasting Corporation, read in part, “The certificates are not genuine as they did not come from us.”
Another letter issued by Galaxy Televsion read, “The certificates claimed to have been issued by us are fake.” Another letter written by Radio Nigeria read, “This is to inform you that the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, through an investigation by the marketing department, finds that no such transaction took place.”
Similarly, the different state advert departments of Nigeria Television Authority denied issuing broadcast certificates to Bakare.
Our correspondent learnt that based on the discovery, the EFCC arrested Bakare, who was said to have confessed that he connived with the former directors of Sosaco.
Kwarbai said, “The adverts were neither aired on television nor radio stations and because the directors of Sosaco were part of the scam, they never bothered. That was why they continued to pay Bakare for services not rendered.
“Bakare confessed in his statement that after cashing each cheque, the directors would send someone to collect a portion of the money. The directors, who are all Indians, would then convert the money to dollars and transfer it to foreign accountss.”
The EFCC said at least $5,658,641 (N905, 382,560), was traced to the accounts of the directors while over N300m was traced to Bakare.
Fifty-year-old Bakare, however, said the scam involved N850m as opposed to the N1.4bn alleged by the company.
Our correspondent learnt that the EFCC also went after the directors and the financial director was able to return $200,000 (N32m).
“However, when the heat became too much, the Indian directors fled the country. Attempts are still on to apprehend them,” the EFCC boss said.
Meanwhile, it was learnt that landed properties and N4m belonging to Bakare had been seized.
“Through a court order, we confiscated Bakare’s duplex on Erigbemi Street min the Alimisho area of Lagos State. We confiscated a one-storey office building at Ogba and another one-storey building on Olufunmilayo Street, Ogba. Bakare also refunded N4m.” Kwarbai said.
Posted by Salmon Abiodun