Wednesday, July 29, 2009

N181m fraud:EFCC denies quizzing Visafone officers

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has denied quizzing officials of Visafone Communications Limited, over the alleged N181 million fraud in the company, saying it does not have knowledge of the case.

This is coming as confusion has pervaded the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry on the state of things in Visafone as the operator weekend, named new chief executive officer and chief financial officer, without the usual razzmatazz that the telco has been known for in over two years of its operation.

ITRealms Online recalls that recent media reports, had alleged that Visafone was entangled in N181m fraud, which invariably led to the ‘Exodus’ of some of the telco’s management team.

The report also added that a staff of Visafone, who is currently at large perfected the fraud, which has since been uncovered. The key suspect is allegedly one Fola, who has since been declared wanted by the security operatives and had even led to resignation of some top employees of the telco.

Company source was quoted by the report as saying that the alleged N181m fraud in Visafone was discovered at the first quarter of this year and has since culminated in redeployment by way of demotion, while a new chief financial officer has been employed.

According to the sources, EFCC has since stepped in and quizzed top officials of the telecom company including the out-going Managing Director, Mr. Ninan Thomas and Director of Finance.

But reacting to the allegations, Assistant General Manager, Marketing Strategies at Visafone, Mr. Clifford Onyeike told ITRealms Online that the report was not true.

“It’s not true at all. Thanks for trying to find out the truth,” Onyeike said in a
Short Messaging Service (SMS) to ITRealms Online.

Also responding to our inquiries on the alleged N181 million scam, the Head, Public Affairs at EFCC, Mr. Femi Babafemi, told ITRealms Online that his office was not aware of the development.

“I’m not aware of the case in question,” he said.

But industry observers maintained that something must have gone amiss for Visafone to announce the appointment of a new CEO and CFO without the usual razzmatazz of which the company is reputed for alongside Zenith Bank Plc owned by business magnate, Mr. Jim Ovia.

However, Visafone claimed that the contract signed by the out-going CEO Mr. Thomas would end officially on August 15 and he was not interested in renewing the deal, rather, Mr. Ramachandran Balachandran, from Thomas’ corporate lineage was named to succeed him.

Industry observers also contended that for Mr. Thomas to abandon his contract renewal is fishy in addition to the latest two appointments at senior management levels of Visafone.

Meanwhile, Visafone announced weekend the appointment of two new key officers, namely the chief executive officer, Mr. Balachandran and the chief financial officer (CFO), Mr. Ross Clewley.

This appointment, Visafone official said, was necessitated by the expiration of contract of the outgoing chief executive officer, Mr. Ninan Thomas, due to elapse on August 15, before when he is billed to handover officially.

Messrs Balachandran and Clewley have since arrived in the country and were treated to a reception last weekend in Lagos.

Visafone also said the repositioning was in effort to meet the challenges of a vibrant and constantly evolving telecoms industry, while Mr. Thomas would return to his Chicago USA base to continue his career.

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