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BIG STORY

Invictus Obi To Restitute $10.7million, Forfeits Wedding Ring, Two Cars In Nigeria, N280m To U.S

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* To undergo three years of “supervised release” after serving his complete jail term

Obinwanne Okeke, also known as Obi Invictus has been ordered to restitute about $10.7million which he fraudulently obtained from identified victims of his at least five years of wire fraud in the U.S and other places.

According to Premium Times, a judge of the Eastern District of Virginia, Rebecca Smith, while sentencing him to 10 years in jail on February 16, also ordered the forfeiture of his identified assets to the U.S government.

The assets include his “white gold emerald cut engagement ring with small accent diamonds.”

The other forfeited assets are two cars back home in Nigeria, and N280,555,010 translating into about $700,000 which the Nigerian government had seized from him.

The judge, Rebecca Smith, ordered Mr Okeke to restitute $10.7million as proceeds of his fraud to the U.S. government in addition to the jail term.

Mr Okeke, who had already spent 19 months in detention as of the time of his sentencing, was also ordered to undergo three years of “supervised release” after serving his complete jail term.

On completing his jail term, Mr Okeke will be presented before a duly-authorized immigration official of the Department of Homeland Security Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement “for deportation review,” said the judge.

The office will determine whether to immediately deport him or make him undergo the three years “supervised release” in the U.S.

The fraud

U.S authorities said Mr Okeke and his co-conspirators, who remain at large, “through subterfuge and impersonation,“ engaged in a multi-year global business email and computer hacking scheme that caused a staggering $11 million in losses to his victims.”

Mr Okeke, 31, also known as Invictus Obi, had in June last year pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud.

His guilty plea which helped him to have one of the two counts initially filed against him dropped conceded to making restitution and forfeiture of his seized assets.

Sentencing

PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday exclusively obtained the court’s Restitution Order’ and ‘Consent Order of Forfeiture’ which are part of the sentencing documents signed by the judge and the parties to the case.

Apart from the judge, others who signed the two documents are, the Acting United States Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, Raj Parekh, Mr Okeke, and his defense lawyer, John Iweanoge.

“Pursuant to 18 U.S.C § 3663A(a)(1), the defendant is ordered to pay restitution in the total amount of $10,679,166.54 jointly and severally with any other defendants who are ordered to pay restitution for the same losses,” the restitution order read in part.

Attached to the document is a list of three victims of Mr Okeke’s fraud.

They are Unatrac Holdings LLC in Washington DC, which was duped $5,429,166.54; Orient Insurance PJSC, duped $5million, and QBE European Operations which lost $250,000 to the fraudsters.

The court ordered that all the payments for the restitution which “shall be made to the Clerk of Court” “shall distribute the funds to Unatrac first and to the remaining victims on a pro-rata basis.”

The court waived interest on the amount to be restituted by the convict and ordered that “no delinquent or default penalties will be imposed except upon Order of the Court.”

Forfeiture order
In the consent forfeiture order, the judge gave a monetary judgment capturing the total of $10,679,166.54 to be restituted by Mr Okeke.

This implies that the U.S authorities will be able to execute the order as the court’s final judgment for the forfeiture of any assets in which Mr Okeke has interests to raise the money for restitution.

According to the court, the sum “shall constitute a monetary judgment against the defendant in favour of the United States,” and “shall be offset” after final forfeiture and liquidation of all of the assets seized from Mr Okeke.

Some of Mr Okeke’s assets already ordered in the document for forfeiture is “18kt white gold emerald cut engagement ring with small accent diamonds and containing GIA number 2287567161.”

“This ring was seized from the defendant at the time of his arrest,” the document explained.

The court also ordered the forfeiture of the U.S government, “Approximately 280,555,010Nigerian Naira (approximately $700,000 U.S.) seized from the defendant by the Nigerian authorities in light of his arrest on the charges in this case.

“Proceeds from the sale of the defendant’s 2018 Toyota Camry and 2017 Toyota Hilux.”

It added, “The defendant agrees to sell these two vehicles, located in Nigeria, and send the proceeds to the U.S. Marshals Service.

“The defendant shall remit these proceeds to the U.S. Marshals Service within six months of the date of this order unless the defendant obtains an extension by written agreement with the government.

“The United States shall seize all forfeited property and shall take full and exclusive custody and control of same.”

U.S. assets also forfeited
The document also gave an indication without giving details that Mr Okeke may have assets in the U.S. that could be taken over by the government authorities in executing the monetary judgment of the court.

“With respect to the monetary judgment described in paragraph (1)(a) above, the United States may collect this monetary judgment by all lawfully available means, including but not limited to forfeiture of direct proceeds and substitute assets.

“Insofar as the United States seeks forfeiture of substitute assets, the defendant agrees and the court finds that one or more of the criteria set forth in 21 U.S.C. §853(p)(1) are present here and the United States may therefore seek forfeiture of substitute assets pursuant to § 853(p).”

But the court directed that in executing the forfeiture order on such assets in the U.S, the authorities “shall to the extent practicable, provide direct written notice to any persons known to have alleged an interest in the seized property, and shall publish notice of this order in accordance with Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.2(b)(6).”

The court added that any person, other than Mr Okeke, asserting any legal interest in the property “may, within 30 days of the publication of the notice or the receipt of the notice, whichever is earlier, petition the court for a hearing to adjudicate the validity of their alleged interest in the property.”

It also ordered: “Following the Court’s disposition of all timely petitions filed, a final order of forfeiture shall be entered. If no third party files a timely petition, this order shall become the final order of forfeiture, as provided by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.2(c)(2), and the

The United States shall have clear title to the property, and shall dispose of the property in accordance with the law.”

Profile
Mr Okeke is the founder of Invictus Group, which he claimed to have a business interest in oil and gas, agriculture, and real estate, among others.

He is said to have a degree in International Studies and Forensic Criminology and Masters of International Relations and Counter-Terrorism Studies from Monash University in Australia

Mr Okeke, a businessman with international fame, was featured on the Forbes Africa Magazine in June 2016 cover.

Arrest

He was arrested on August 6, 2019, on a criminal complaint for computer and wire fraud to defraud Unatrac Holding Limited which is headquartered in United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Operatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) nabbed him at Dulles International Airport, Virginia, as he prepared to depart the U.S after a visit to witness the birth of his 19-month-old daughter born on July 15, 2019.

Charged

On September 9, 2019, he was charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit computer fraud.

Mr Okeke, who initially denied the charges, later entered into a plea bargain agreement with the U.S authorities and pleaded guilty to Count 1 on June 18, 2020.

The guilty plea helped Mr Okeke to secure the withdrawal of the second charge that carries a lesser sentence and fines.

BIG STORY

774,000 Public Jobs Workers Protest Unpaid N20,000 Wage, Beneficiaries Tackle Keyamo

Gbemileke Ajayi

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Participants in the Federal Government’s Special Public Works (SPW) programme are protesting the delay in paying their stipend more than three months after kick-off.

The SPW is an Adhoc programme designed by the government to provide stop-gap three months jobs to mainly artisans to earn N20,000 monthly doing public works.

One thousand youths were hired from each of the 774 local government in the country as beneficiaries, bringing the figure to 774,000 councils.

The programme was inaugurated on January 5. The first batch of beneficiaries have completed their assignment without being paid.

President Muhammadu Buhari on March 20 directed the release of funds to pay the stipends.

Minister of Labour and Employment Festus Keyamo (SAN) hours after, directed the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), the Federal Government agency driving the programme, to start processing the payment plan.

Keyamo, in his official Tweeter handle, (@fkeyamo, assured the participants that they would soon receive alerts of payment.

Twenty-two days after, no payment has been made.

Some of the participants at the weekend took to Keyamo’s Twitter handle to ventilate their frustration.

One of them described the Federal Government as “heartless” for failing to pay them their stipend.

One Dubagari Jnr, tweeted: “What is happening with the SPW? Up till now, we have not been paid and have successfully finished our work. Please Hon. minister we need explanations on why we have not been paid and you have to start the disbursement before fasting (Ramadan).

Another worker, Maikudi Kolo, asked through a tweet: “Una no go pay 774, 000 workers?”

Abdoul Baqee tweeted: “People are hungry regarding the payment of stipends. Please fast track the payment of these people. 774, 000 people waiting anxiously for their payment with hunger and they don’t even have a phone to come to your timeline. When you get hungry just remember those people that work with hunger without their entitlement.”

Yusuf Mohammed Olawuyi asked: “Mr. Honourable minister, what happened to our SPW stipends? You already published that we will start receiving the alert from the beginning of April.”

When contacted, Keyamo directed our correspondent to NDE acting Director-General Abubakar Fikpo.

Fikpo said: “We are still in the process; we have identified some loopholes here and there. We want to verify the BVN of the participants. That is why we are working with the banks.

“We are verifying the BVN of those participants in order to avoid double payments to several people or to three or more accounts.”

About SPW Programme

The Special Public Works Programme is a dry season/off-season transient job for rehabilitation/maintenance of social infrastructure.

The Programme is designed to employ 1,000 persons each from the 774 Local Government Areas.

It is being implemented by the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.

N52billion was voted for the programme, part of it to pay participants at N20,000 monthly for three months.

The programme was expected to commence on October 1, 2020, but suffered a setback because of internal wranglings between Keyamo and a former Director-General of the NDE, Nasir Ladan. President Muhammadu Buhari fired Ladan.

There was also a big row between the National Assembly and Keyamo over the allocation of slots to hire beneficiaries.

N26 billion was released for the procurement of equipment and for logistics before the programme eventually commenced on January 5.

Keyamo, during the inauguration of the programme, said it will address poverty and hunger.

The minister said the programme was conceived following the success of the pilot scheme in eight states to gauge its impact in addressing the ballooning population of the unemployed and rising insecurity.

Keyamo noted that countries like India and Malaysia used similar programmes to fight poverty.

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BIG STORY

Nigeria Didn’t Become Failed State Under Jonathan, It Won’t Now —– Lawan

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Senate President Ahmad Lawan says the security challenges plaguing the country cannot make it a failed state.

Lawan said this on Saturday when he launched the 2021 empowerment programme to 2000 beneficiaries of Katsina central senatorial district.

In December 2020, Financial Times said Nigeria was “on the brink” of becoming a failed state.

The international business newspaper cited insecurity, stalled economic growth, and weak institutions as some of the country’s biggest challenges.

On Friday, Nigerian governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the country is gradually moving towards becoming a failed state if the current trend of security challenges continues.

Lawan, however, said those projecting Nigeria as a failed state “are missing the point”.

He said if the country did not become a failed state during the era of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, then it was impossible for it to fail now.

“Those who were saying that in the present circumstance caused by insecurity, that Nigeria could turn a failed State, approaching a failed State or may likely end up a failed State, are missing the point because Nigeria can never be a failed state,” Lawan said.

“Again they forget that when a state of emergency was declared in some parts of the North-East during the Goodluck Jonathan administration, Nigeria did not turn a failed state, let alone the present.”

The number three citizen called on all stakeholders to join hands with President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to overcome the present challenges facing the nation.

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BIG STORY

GTBank Shareholders Endorse N3.00 Total Dividend For 2020, Applaud Agbaje’s Leadership

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Shareholders of Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank) Plc, at the weekend unanimously endorsed the payment of a total dividend of N3.00 per share to shareholders for the financial year ended Dec. 31, 2020.

This endorsement was made on Friday, April 9th, 2021, at the Bank’s 31st Annual General Meeting (AGM) held in Lagos. The bank had proposed a final dividend of N2.70 per unit of ordinary share held by shareholders in addition to the interim dividend of 30k interim dividend earlier paid in June 2020. GTBank according to the results presented to and applauded by shareholders at the AGM, recorded an increase in all performance indicators despite the challenging operating environment that prevailed in 2020.

Speaking at the meeting, a shareholder, Mr. Tunji Bamidele, commended the bank’s board and management for sustaining profit and dividend payment in spite of the harsh and challenging economy experienced in the year 2020 as a result of the pandemic that challenged the world.

Applauding the Managing Director’s leadership acumen and dexterity, Bamidele noted that the MD/CEO’s steering of the bank in the past 10 years has been a blessing to shareholders and the bank’s well-meaning stakeholders.

In his comments, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Mr Segun Agbaje, noted that the year 2020 was arguably the most challenging year that the world has faced in decades and that in such unprecedented times, the bank has been at the forefront of safeguarding lives and livelihood across the communities where it operates.

“We continue to receive positive and goodwill messages for the role we played at the height of the pandemic; especially for putting together very timely, a 110-bed Isolation Centre, with an intensive care unit, in partnership with the Lagos State Government,” he said, citing the Bank’s Excellence in Leadership in Africa Award which was specially created by the renowned Euromoney Magazine to spotlight private institutions at the forefront of tackling the pandemic.

Mr Agbaje also spoke about GTBank’s solid performance in a very challenging year and his confidence in the organization’s ability to keep delivering for all its stakeholders. His words, “The strength, scale and liquidity of our balance sheet, coupled with the quality of our past decisions and the efficacy of our digital-first customer-centric strategy gave us the resilience and flexibility to navigate the economic shocks and market volatility that dominated the year.”

“Amidst the many challenges that persist, we remain ardent believers in Africa’s growth potential. Our world is increasingly digital, and we see it opening new and exciting opportunities for empowering people and uplifting our communities. With our commitment to deepening customer relationships and intense focus on delivering innovative financial solutions, we enter 2021 well-positioned”, he added.

GTBank is one of Africa’s most profitable financial institutions. In 2020, the Bank reported Profit before tax of ₦238.1billion, representing a growth of 2.8% over ₦231.7billion recorded in the corresponding year ended December 2019. The Bank also continues to post the best metrics in the Nigerian Banking industry in terms of key Financial Ratios i.e. Post-Tax Return on Equity (ROAE) of 26.8%, Post-Tax Return on Assets (ROAA) of 4.6%, Full Impact Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) of 21.9% and Cost to Income ratio of 38.2%.

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