International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) has that it has established a case of fraudulent activities by John Mitchener, an American corporate player in Nigeria.
Mitchener had been accused of “economic sabotage, obtaining credit by false pretences, fraudulent trade practices and illegal repatriation of capital, intimidation and threat to life” by his Nigerian business partner.
After investigating, the Interpol national central bureau said it had established that the American was a “transnational fraudster” and asked that the case be handed over to the Nigerian police legal department for further action.
Ranger International Limited (RIL), a US company controlled by Mitchener, had in 2014 entered a partnership with the Nigerian Technixs Oilfield Support Limited, promoted by Abimbola Omotade, to incorporate a new business known as Ranger Subsea Nigeria Limited.
The company was set up to provide services and support for the offshore oil and gas industry.
In the shareholding agreement, Technixs was apportioned 51% while Ranger takes 49%.
Both entities agreed that modalities for the execution of contracts obtained or sourced for the new business must be discussed, especially the financial part of the contracts.
Without Technixs’ consent, jobs sourced from international oil companies such as Chevron and Exxon Mobil were allegedly carried out by Mitchener and proceeds of the projects were repatriated to the US without the board’s approval.
Ranger Subsea Nigeria Limited then suspiciously closed shop in Nigeria, leaving its partner and tens of vendors in debt of over N19 billion.
In another suspicious move, Mitchener returned to Nigeria with a new company, EPIC Companies LLC, to source other contracts.In its investigations, Intepol concluded that Ranger and Mitchener carried out fraudulent transactions around the business partnership it had with Technixs.
On September 27, 2018, he was arrested in Lagos after Interpol obtained a warrant from a magistrate court in the federal capital territory (FCT).
He was brought to Abuja the next day, and after making his statement, he was granted bail.
His passport was also registered with the police organisation to prevent him from leaving the country.
The Interpol, in its report signed by Garba Umar, its commissioner, said based on the development reached so far, “it suffices to state that this is an organised crime by the suspects who are clearly transnational fraudsters whose stock in trade is to cause untold hardship, pains and financial loss on unsuspecting victims as it is evidenced in this case under investigation.”
The police said the act of the suspects is contrary to the provisions of sections 1, 2 and 3 of the advance fee fraud and other related offences act, 2006.
It further recommended that the case file be forwarded to the legal department for appropriate direction on the matter.
‘HOW MITCHENER VIOLATED THE AGREEMENT WITH FRAUDULENT ACTIVITIES’
In a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) dated February 5, 2019, Technixs had accused Mitchener of forging a shareholders’ agreement purporting to have been executed by Omotade on his company’s behalf.
The company said Mitchener, with one Tosin Labeodan, had been brandishing the agreement “to humiliate, intimidate and frustrate our company to get to the bottom of John Mitchener’s illegal activities”.
Listing the various allegations of infractions, he said Mitchener, through his Americans collaborators, obtained a loan of $60 million from AKRIFA Holdings LLC in the US purportedly to fund general working capital requirements of Ranger without any approval of shareholders.
The petition read in part: “Immediately the loans were brought to Nigeria, John Mitchener repatriated the funds back to America to fund some of RIL international operations in Mexico and Caribbean Island.
“John Mitchener illegally created preference shares in favour of AKRIFA Holdings LLC and proceeded to fraudulently alter the incorporation documents of Ranger Subsea Nigeria Limited to reflect this position without board approval. This was coordinated in conjunction with Tosin Labeodan.
“During the operation of RIL and John Mitchener in Nigeria between 2015 and 2018, John Mitchener fraudulently racked up a debt of over $48 million in the name of Ranger Subsea Nigeria regarding monies owed to vendors and the contract funds paid by International Oil Companies to Ranger Subsea Nigeria were at various times repatriated to America by John Mitchener.”
Reports and annual returns of the business were allegedly concocted by Mitchener as Omotade said they were not adopted as true representation of the financial dealings of Ranger Subsea Nigeria.
RANGER, ACQUIRED BY EPIC, LEFT WITH DEBTS UNPAID
In a letter dated December 19, 2017, the defunct Skye Bank had written to Ranger asking the company to pay up the debt owed Fortune Global Shipping & Logistics Limited (FGSL), one of the vendors who provided services for the company.
The bank emphasised that Ranger needed to pay up to enable liquidation of FGSL’s obligations to the bank.
Despite letters from Ranger showing willingness to make the payment, the bank said the company was yet to meet the obligations.
Additional report by Emmanuel Udom