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Alleged Manipulation of Tax : Italian Construction company, Borini Prono, Battles Nigerian Police

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OLA KING

Alleged manipulation of tax : Italian Construction company, Borini Prono, Battles Nigerian Police 

   A limited liability company Borini Prono & company Nigeria Limited, whose Directors are under investigation over alleged crime of fraudulent practice to cheat the Federal Inland Revenue on tax and to deny contract facilitators of financial entitlement has dragged Inspector General of Police before a Federal high court sitting in Lagos.

      The Italian construction company is urging the court to restrain the defendants Police officers from inviting, interrogating, investigating, or detaining the officers of the company        Joined as co-respondents in the suit are, The Assistant Inspector General of Police CID zone 2 Police command, The Commissioner of Police CID zone 2 Command,The Assistant Commissioner of Police CID Zone 2 Command, and a Lagos businessman Christopher Uzodike.    In an affidavit sworn to by a Director of Borini Prono & Company Nigeria Limited, Paolo Prono of  11 Burma Road,Apapa,Lagos state averred that by invitation letter dated 20th March, 2019 Mr Gianfranco Albertazzi,, the Managing Director of the company was invited by the Zonal monitoring Unit of the Nigerian Police Force Zone 2 Headquarters    On 25th of March,2019 he reported at the Zone 2 Police Command, in the company of his lawyer, upon his arrival, he was shown a petition written against him by one Mr Christopher Uzodike on the basis of alleged outstanding contractual indebtedness of his company to him.      He was interrogated and was admitted and release  on administrative bail and was instructed to return on 2nd of April,2019with documentation in support of the position of his company.      He reported as instructed but officer in charge of his case was not available.
      However, to his utmost surprise at about 5am on the morning of 3rd April,2019 he was arrested at his residence in Ikoyi, Lagos, by officers from criminal and investigating Department Zone 2 Onikan Lagos and detained on the assertion that he failed to report as instructed.        Thereafter joint meeting was held with the petitioner, his lawyer with the officer in charge of the criminal investigation in respect of a second petition and was requested to report back on 10th April,2019.      On the 10th of April, he made statement on behalf of the company, and the commissioner in charge of CID after reading the content of the petition of Mr Uzodike  and questioning the parties came to the conclusion that the matter related to purely to civil contractual transaction which was outside the purview of the Nigerian Police,therefore he was requested to report back on May 6, 2019,    However,  he sought the advice of his lawyer, who advice him that, continuous, invitation, interrogation and arrest by the Police at every material time has continued to disrupt business and operation of the company, particularly in respect of critical road construction currently being executed.      

Consequently, he urged the court to restrain the defendants from further inviting, interrogating, investigating,or detaining, the Directors, Managers, Secretaries or any officer of the company as Nigerian Police being law enforcement agency, is not empowered to entertain petitions in respect of civil or contractual disputes. 

   However in a counter affidavit sworn to by Inspector Fidelis Ilobun, Police Officer, serving at Zonal Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, Zone 2 Police command,  He claimed that he is a member of the Police Team that is investigating criminal allegations against the company  captioned Re: FRAUDULENT PRACTICES BY THE FOREIGN COMPANY BORINI PRONO & CO. (NIGERIA) LIMITED. TO CHEAT THE FEDERAL INLAND REVENUE OF TAX AND TO DENY LOCAL PARTNERS AND CONTRACT FACILITATORS OF THEIR HUGE FINANCIAL ENTITLEMENTS, reported to the  Assistant Inspector General of Police Criminal investigation Department Zone 2 by  a Lagos businessman Mr Christopher Uzodike against the Borini Prono company from which this suit arose.

   Inspector Ilobun who claimed to be a member of the Police Team investigating the criminal allegations of fraudulent practice to cheat the Federal Inland Revenue on tax and to deny local partners and contract facilitators of financial entitlements reported to the Assistant Inspector General of Police  against the Company stated that in the course of Police investigation of the alleged crime alleged  above,

 The police invited the officers of the Borini Prono company , namely; Messrs Gianfranco Albertazzi and Mr. Paolo Prono via Police invitation letter dated 29th March, 2019

 Mr Albertazzi reported at the Zone 2 Police command on 25th March, 2019 together with his Lawyer, Mr. Remi Dalley, and having read through the petition against the Applicant, volunteered statement to the Police as one of the officers of the company , who acted for it in his dealings with Mr Uzodike , from which the petition to the Police arose

   Mr. Albertazzi was granted Police administrative bail and released to his Lawyer who stood as surety for his bail on the same 25th March, 2019, immediately after his statement was made  to the Police.

  During his response to the criminal allegations made against his company   Mr. Albertazzi stated that the relationship which the company  had with Uzodike  was that he supplied iron rod and cement to the company  which they have fully paid for, with invoices for payment dully issued as evidence.

  The Police requested Mr. Albertazzi to produce the invoices evidence mentioned by him to the Police in order to assist Police investigation, and he was further requested to report back at the commissioner ‘s office for the interview of the parties, on the 2nd April, 2019, together with Mr. Prono, who failed to honour Police invitation along with Mr. Albertazzi on the said 25th March, 2019

  Despite that Albertazzi was duly informed by the Police and also informed in his bail bond executed by  him and his surety, to report back to the commissioner’s  office on 1st of April,2019.

    He failed to honour police invitation  on that day.

The failure of Albertazzi to report at the commissioner’s office on 1st of April ,2019,which was in clear violation of his bail bond, led to the cancellation of the commissioner’s interview schedule for both parties in the case, and the interview was therefore rescheduled to 2nd April, 2019.

   The rescheduled interview prompted the police to send another invitation letter to messrs Arlbertazzi and Prono on 2nd April,219 requesting them to report at the Commissioner of Police’s office on 2nd April 2019

Mr Albertazzi,  and Mr. Prono, again failed to honour police invitation to report  on 2nd April,2019, and no police officer informed him that commissioner was not in the office on that day.

   The Police did not arrest Mr. Arlbertazzi on 3rd April,2019 or on any other day.

   Due to the failure of Albertazzi and Prono to honour Police invitation letter served on them on 1st April,2019 to report on the  2nd April,2019 to find out the reason for his absence, but that 2nd of April,2019, he could not give any reasonable reason for at the instance of Albertazzi and his lawyer,  the interview for both parties was rescheduled for 10th April,2019.

   Mr Arlbertazzi together with Prono and Uzodike with their lawyers  all reported at the commissioner’s  office for the interview on 10th April,2019.Prono volunteered statement.

.  During the interview section, where Lawyer to both parties were also present, Mr. Arlbertazzi stated that it was iron rod and cement that the petitioner  supplied to the company , on which the company  duly issued invoices as evidence of supply and payment. This was vehemently denied by Uzodike  who maintained he is a contract facilitator to the company, on which the Applicant through Mr .Albertazzi and Mr. Prono, manufactured fraudulent invoices with the sole aim of  manipulating the Company’s taxes payable to Federal Government of Nigeria and cheat their contract facilitators.

   Based on these new facts discovered during the interview, the commissioner of Police in charge of criminal investigation Department  requested the company‘s officers, i.e. Mr .Arlbertazzi and Mr Prono to make the invoices mentioned by them and disputed by Uzordike available to the police, to assist the on-going investigation.

   The commissioner  did not made any statement that suggest the Uzodike’s petition was a civil contractual transactions. Rather the commissioner  requested the company officer i.e.  Mr. Arbertazzi and  Mr.Prono to make the invoices mentioned by them  available to the police, to assist, the on –going  investigation ,and  directed  the police team investigating the case to continue with their  investigation and report their findings at the conclusion of their investigation.

 Despite Police earlier request and   the commissioner’s  further  request to the company ’s officers, i.e.  Mr .Arbertazzi and Mr.Prono, to produce the invoices mentioned by them  to the police for investigation so as to unravel the purpose and intent for which the invoices were made by the company, but they blatantly refused to produce  the invoices to the  police till date.

But since 10th of  April, 2019 Mr. Arbertazzi and Prono, has been engaging in ‘hide and seek’ as they have jumped police administrative bail and absconded from investigation, having also failed to produce the alleged invoices to the police for investigation.

  The police were still waiting and hoping that Mr.Arbertazzi and Prono will produce the invoices mentioned by them to the police when they  received the company ’s suit.

  The case reported by Uzodike to the Assisstant Inspector General of Police In charge of Criminal investigation  is not a mere civil contractual   transactions, but   alleged crime of fraudulent practice to cheat the Federal inland Revenue on tax and to deny contract facilitators of financial entitlement.

 The alleged manufacturing and manipulation of invoices by the Applicants, Mr.Arlbertazzi and Prono, to cheat  Government of taxes and cheat their contract facilitators, are criminal allegations which police has powers to investigate.

   No contractual debt was mentioned by the  petitioner in his petition to the police and the police is not investigating debt from the company. 

 The company  cannot seek injunction from the court to restrain the police from investigating alleged crime.

 The company  is not entitle to order of injunction against the Police to stop them from investigating criminal allegations made to them by the petitioner  against the Borini Prono company .

  The police have not done anything in their investigation of alleged crime reported to them against the company  that is out the area and duties of investigation.

 The company  is not entitled to any damages or cost against the Police who are merely performing their statutory duties of investigation. 

     The suit and claim against the Police  is  pre-emptive, speculative, frivolous and aimed mainly to frustrate Police investigation of the alleged crime reported to them.

 The Respondents Police officers and the Nigeria Police force will be prejudice if the company’s claim against them is granted by the court because it will stop them from performing their statutory duty of investigation.

      Consequently, the respondent Police officers urge the court to dismiss the claim of the company.

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Lasaco Assurance: Looking Good For The Future By Rilwan Oshinusi 

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Since its over 40 years of existence and particularly within the last five years, Lasaco Assurance Plc has consistently made remarkable progress and contributed positively to the growth of the insurance industry through our strict adherence to professional standards.
The company has insisted on doing business with honesty, empathy and the fear of God and made its clients get value for their investments, thus, making them (clients) rely on the company as their dependable companion.
This has culminated in a lot of noticeable positive changes that have kept Lasaco in the top position in its line of business. Its core values, purpose and mission have continued to make it a leading brand in the insurance industry in Nigeria.
Lasaco’s improved performance, especially in the last five years, was driven by various transformational and growth changes implemented by the Board of Directors and Management, which have resulted in significant changes to its organisational structures and performance. Its marketing effort is now through a strategic branch structure (organised on a regional basis) for adequate coverage of the entire country in order to increase our penetration.
These changes were also supported by various capacity upgrades, including robust procedures and policies which have enhanced its operations as well as improved the company’s performance and growth. It has significantly upscaled the quality of its service delivery as well as considerably reduced service turnaround times.
Thus, Lasaco has grown considerably in size, business-coverage, capital base and assets with its operations spanning all classes of insurance and special risks business as well as real estate.
Lasaco’s business portfolio currently includes leadership and a significant share of key Federal and State Governments insurance businesses, multinationals and private companies. In the last five years, the Company has embarked on strategic programmes to boost its growth, performance and transformation in line with its vision and organisational goal.
In the area of growth, the Company has recorded about 30% increase in its Gross Premium Income within five years. Financially, Lasaco is strong with an asset base of about N17 billion and a high solvency margin ratio. It has consistently paid dividends to shareholders since the last three years.
As part of its transformation agenda, Lasaco remodelled its Head Office to a world-class workplace environment as well as rebranded to embrace the company’s global nature while retaining its root of origin.
The Nigerian insurance market has been faced with different challenges in its efforts to serve the needs of the relevant stakeholders. As a result, the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM), the body responsible for the regulation of the insurance industry has, over time, devised different means in its aim to achieve this.
With the recent Recapitalisation Guidelines issued by NAICOM to meet up with the requirements, Lasaco’s shareholders have been proactive to approve the raising of N10 billion additional capital through Special/Private Placement. The arrangement is at an advanced stage, and soon they (the shareholders) and new investors will be allowed to increase their shareholding and/or invest newly.
Since January 2020, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has transformed the whole world and presented tremendous challenges with reverberating effects medically, socially and economically. Thank God that the company has kept its head afloat working tirelessly to ensure that its effect does not keep it out of business.
Lasaco’s investment in ICT infrastructure is yielding fruit as most of its staff are effectively working remotely with minimal disruption, since most of the Company’s documents are now stored in the clouds, arranged methodically for ease of retrieval.
As a socially responsible corporate citizen that supports government’s efforts in curbing the spread of the deadly COVID19, LASACO, along with other major insurance companies, under the leadership of Nigerian Insurers Association and National Insurance Commission, provided Testing Materials, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Life Insurance Cover free of charge to 5,000 front line health workers across the country.
Prior to this, the Company had extended such gestures to two states by providing Life Insurance Cover for an appreciable number of health workers and volunteers in Lagos State and the State of Osun.
Digital technologies are fundamentally changing how companies in the insurance industry operate and serve their customers, and Lasaco is not exempted. The company intends to transform its claims administration process and customer experiences via digitalisation. Its website has been revamped to ease the process of buying an insurance policy or filing a claim.
As a growth strategy to further increase our branch network and national presence, Lasaco intends to expand its branches and operating base network to include locations such as the South-South and South East regions of Nigeria.
No doubt, the future looks brighter for the company as it continue to make sacrifice to satisfy its clients so as to make the investments of the company’s shareholders continue to yield positive results.
Rilwan Oshinusi is the Deputy Managing Director, Corporate Services, Lasaco Assurance PLC

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Facebook Announces its New Office in Lagos, Nigeria

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As part of its continued commitment and ongoing investment in Africa, Facebook today announced it will be opening an office in Lagos, Nigeria – its second office on the African continent. Aimed at supporting the entire Sub-Saharan Africa region, the office is expected to become operational in H2 2021 and will be the first on the continent to house a team of expert engineers building for the future of Africa and beyond.Facebook’s office will be home to various teams servicing the continent from across the business, including Sales, Partnerships, Policy, Communications as well as Engineers.Commenting, Ime Archibong, Facebook’s Head of New Product Experimentation said: “The opening of our new office in Lagos, Nigeria presents new and exciting opportunities in digital innovations to be developed from the continent and taken to the rest of the world. All across Africa we’re seeing immense talent in the tech ecosystem, and I’m proud that with the upcoming opening of our new office, we’ll be building products for the future of Africa, and the rest of the world, with Africans at the helm. We look forward to contributing further to the African tech ecosystem.” The investment of the new Facebook office follows the 2018 opening of NG_Hub, its first flagship community hub space in Africa in partnership with CcHub, and the 2019 opening of a Small Business Group (SBG) Operations Centre in Lagos, in partnership with Teleperformance. Providing outsourced support to all English-speaking advertisers across Sub-Saharan Africa, the SBG office supports Small Medium Businesses (SMBs) through its Advocacy, Community & Education (ACE) programme, as well as its Marketing Expert sales programmes – all aimed at enabling SMBs to accelerate the growth and development of their businesses. “Our new office in Nigeria presents an important milestone which further reinforces our ongoing commitment to the region”, commented Kojo Boakye, Facebook’s Director of Public Policy, Africa. “Our mission in Africa is no different to elsewhere in the world – to build community and bring the world closer together, and I’m excited about the possibilities that this will create, not just in Nigeria, but across Africa.” Since the opening of its first office in 2015, Facebook has made a number of investments across the continent, aimed at supporting and growing the tech ecosystem, expanding and providing reliable connectivity infrastructures and helping businesses to grow locally, regionally and globally. This includes the recent rollout of its SMB Grants programme in Nigeria and South Africa, aimed at supporting over 900 businesses by providing a combination of cash and ad credits to help small businesses as they rebuild from COVID. The development of 2Africa, the world’s largest subsea cable project that will deliver much needed internet capacity and reliability across large parts of Africa, as well as its ongoing training programmes across the continent which support various communities including students, SMBs, digital creatives, female entrepreneurs, start-up’s and developers.  Nunu Ntshingila, Regional Director, Facebook Africa,said: “We’re delighted to be announcing our new office in Nigeria. Five years on from opening our first office on the continent in Johannesburg, South Africa, we’re continuing to invest in and support local talent, as well as the various communities that use our platforms. The office in Lagos will also be key in helping to expand how we service our clients across the continent.”

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Billionaire Businessman, Harry Akande, Battles Shoprite

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Billionaire Harry Ayoade Akande towers above many of his contemporaries, particularly because he has been in warm embrace of fame for many decades.

Beyond his famed status as a successful businessman, he has also remained very relevant owing to his uncommon brilliance, a quality that has endeared him to many across the globe.

The Agbaoye of Ibadan, who set out to pursue his dreams quite early in life, had served as a business advisor and consultant to many other businessmen, including governments of several nations.

The world-class businessman in the past has scored many firsts in the nation’s business climate to the envy of many of his competitors.

Indeed, he would have scored yet another first in 2005, as the South African retail store, Shoprite, had several meetings with  his company, AIC Limited, and agreed  his company would be the exclusive operator and manager of its brand across West Africa, except Ghana where the Shoprite brand was already established.

Consequently , there were a series of business meetings between Akande’s representatives and Shoprite Checkers first in South Africa on April 16, 1998 and then at Akande’s office in Victoria Island, Lagos on May 27, 1998.

Shoprite was also said to have flown in representatives who were shown possible locations for retail stores at some locations ,including Lekki Roundabout, Trade fair Complex and Lagos National Theatre, Iganmu.

But  when the South African retail giant was ready to commence operations in Nigeria, it allegedly sidelined Akande’s AIC and incorporated another company, Retail Supermarkets Nigeria Limited, and began using the new entity to operate in Nigeria, thereby breaching agreements between them.

The billionaire was upset and this led to a prolonged legal battle with Akande securing a 2018 major victory against the South African retail group for breaching contract between both parties in Suit No LD/488/2010 —AIC Limited (Claimant) v Shoprite Checkers (PTY) Ltd of South Africa and Retail Supermarkets Nigeria Limited (Defendants).

However, Shoprite owners appealed the judgement, while the Ibadan, Oyo State-born billionaire secured another victory  in May 2020  at the appellate court.

Though the three-man panel of Court of Appeal , Lagos Division, didn’t agree to Akande’s cross appeal, demanding 50 per cent of $92.3million as loss of profit he suffered due to the incorporation of Retail Supermarkets Limited, it unanimously affirmed the judgment of a Lagos High Court that awarded $10 million (N4.7 billion) damages against Shoprite Checkers (PTY) Limited.

Apart from the $10 million award, the court had directed the South African retail giant to pay 10 percent per annum on the damages, with effect from the date of judgment until the final liquidation of the entire sum.

Consequently, the shrewd businessman has initiated a fresh legal battle  at the Federal High Court to halt Shoprite Checkers’ exit moves out of Nigeria until the entire sum demanded is paid to the last kobo.

The billionaire, through his company, has got an ex-parte application for an order of Mareva Injunction restraining the South African retail giant, its privies, officers, nominees, successors-in-title, subsidiaries or anyone acting through it or by it from transferring, assigning, charging, disposing of its trademark, franchise and intellectual property in a manner that will alter, dissipate or remove these non-cash assets from the court’s jurisdiction.

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