After sinking Skye Bank, Heritage Bank battles controversial businessman, Tunde Ayeni over N40bn debt
Tunde Ayeni and Heritage Bank
In what appears to be a case of the rich getting richer and cornering depositors’ funds for personal use, controversial businessman, Tunde Ayeni is in the news again for the wrong reasons, THE WITNESS reports.
Fresh from seemingly getting reprieve from his Skye Bank legal battle – a bank he allegedly ran down – Ayeni, a former chairman of the defunct Skye Bank Plc, is enmeshed in another financial scandal over an alleged unpaid N40 billion loan he secured from Heritage Bank.
THE WITNESS reliably gathered that the bank has petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over his alleged indebtedness to the lender.
Recall that Ayeni and the then managing director of the defunct Skye Bank, Timothy Oguntayo, faced 10 charges bordering on money laundering to the tune of N25.4 billion brought before them by the EFCC in 2019.
The alleged heist by the duo during their time at the bank eventually brought the financial institution down, prompting an intervention from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in September 2018. The apex bank took over the struggling lender, christened it Polaris Bank Limited, and eventually sold it to new investors in October 2022.
In July last year, the EFCC withdrew its case against Ayeni and Oguntayo, after allegedly entering into a secret settlement with the businessmen that may have involved the forfeiture of N15 billion in cash and assets.
However, while Ayeni may have gotten a letup from his EFCC headache over his alleged financial impropriety during his time at Skye Bank, another legal tussle and battle is starring him in the face.
On his indebtedness to Heritage Bank, THE WITNESS gathered that there was an initial arrangement for the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) to take over the debt, but up till today, nothing has been done.
Meanwhile, Heritage Bank has been unable to take over the properties Ayeni used as collateral for the said loan for other legal reasons.
A top official of the bank told THE WITNESS that the lender has formally dragged Ayeni to the EFCC, and will be looking forward to the commission doing the needful as it was determined to recover the funds.
“Yes, the case is now with the EFCC,” said the official who craved anonymity because he hasn’t been authorised to speak.
“We are pursuing the process legally.
“So, we’re going to do all that is necessary to recover it.
“As you can see, all is not well with the bank and people like Ayeni are one of the reasons for the challenges the bank is going through today. These loans are depositors’ funds.
“If the bank finally ceases to exist, do you know how many staff will lose their jobs with their families stranded? Ayeni doesn’t seem to be bothered if the bank collapses.
“If he doesn’t pay up, we will give him the Senator Andy Uba treatment. We will mobilize and protest at his residences,” the official concluded.
Recovery of the sum will come in handy for Heritage, which has also had struggles of late.
Heritage is gradually moving from a state of comatose to a complete death situation with customers’ deposits on the line.
The bank’s bankruptcy issues, and inability to meet obligations to depositors have worsened and grown from bad to worse.
Recall that some workers of Heritage Bank had in June 2021 besieged the residence of Andy Uba, former senator from Anambra State, over a loan they said he owes the financial institution. The staff of the bank, who were seen with placards, gathered in front of his residence in Abuja, asking the politician to pay the purported loan to save their jobs.
In 2020, the CBN took a step ahead of the defaulters by allowing banks to seize funds in the accounts of loan defaulters to protect depositors.
Also, the senate in 2021 passed a bill that strengthened the power of AMCON to recover bad loans by allowing it to seize and sell properties traced to debtors, whether or not such assets are used as security/collateral for obtaining the loan in question.
THE WITNESS contacted a media consultant of Mr. Ayeni to seek the businessman’s reaction to the development. He however did not get back to our correspondent as at press time.