Publisher dragged before EFCC over alleged fraud

Posted by News Express | 1 January 1970 | 3,476 times

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A Nigerian newspaper Publisher has been dragged before the country’s anti-graft agency for alleged “carefully organised fraud of a semi-gargantuan proportion.”

In a petition submitted this morning at the headquarters of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, Mr. Simon Imobo-Tswam, former Abuja Bureau Chief of the Lagos-based The Moment newspaper, accused the paper’s Publisher, Mr. Moffat Thompson Ekoriko, of failure to remit taxes running into millions of naira deducted from staff salaries to the relevant tax authorities.

The petition comes a day after Mr. Imobo-Tswam sued Mr. Ekoriko and The Moment at an Abuja High Court claiming 200 million naira for libel and unpaid salaries. The petition, a copy of which was made available to News Express, reads as follows:

The Chairman
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)
Wuse II, Abuja
Sir,

PETITION AGAINST MR. MOFFAT THOMPSON EKORIKO, THE PUBLISHER/CEO OF THE MOMENT NEWSPAPERS IN RESPECT OF UNREMITTED TAX DEDUCTIONS FROM 2010 TILL DATE
I am Simon Imobo-Tswam, and was, up till August this 2012, the pioneer Abuja Bureau Chief of The Moment newspapers i.e. from January 2011 to July/August, 2012.
From the particulars of my appointment letter (attached), as a Senior Assistant Editor, my salary was given as N1.8 million per annum (ie N150,000 per month).
But my appointment letter also stated that “...your salary will be paid monthly less tax and      other statutory PAYE deductions.”
As a result, throughout my stay with True Moment Media Ltd (RC 872779), publishers of The Moment newspapers, I was never paid the N150,000 at any point.
First, I was paid N135,000 and after about a year, it moved up to N138,000 as at my last pay in November, 2012.
The explanation was the deductions were paid to the Lagos State Government via the Lagos State Tax Office.
When I resigned on June 22nd, 2012, but with effect from July 31st, 2012, I indicated that my tax certificates be made available to me alongside my entitlements on or before July 31st,            2012.
However, up till this 12th day of October, 2012, I have not been given my tax certificates.  
I have reliably been told, though informally, that The Moment, which is owned by the former Bayelsa State Governor, Timipre Sylva, does not remit these deductions to the Lagos State Tax Office or even the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). And discreet inquiries at the Lagos tax offices have confirmed this.
I was further advised that if I needed the certificates desperately, they could help me procure     same on the Lagos Black Market.
Since no one (whether those who have left or those who are still working with The Moment) has ever received his/her tax certificate or even the evidence of such transaction, there is a strong suspicion that rather than remit the tax deductions to the appropriate government bodies, the deductions are being routinely diverted into personal pockets for personal use.
Since this illegality has gone on since late 2010 when the company started operations, and with a staff strength approaching 300 (attached is an inconclusive staff list), I am alerting your anti-graft commission of a carefully organised fraud of a semi-gargantuan proportion. (I am No. 83 on the attached list).

This something he will never contemplate in the United Kingdom where some of his businesses like NewsAfrica Magazine has its head-office.
Sir, if the commission is minded to investigate this economic crime, it might as well use its good offices to look into whether or not Mr. Ekoriko is doing a similar thing in his other companies like NewsAfrica and Clearpoint Communications Ltd.

The commission can compel him to remit the deductions, which run into millions of Naira, to the appropriate tax offices or return mine to me; especially now that non-payment of salaries has forced me to resign and he has yet to pay me my accumulated entitlements.

The Moment has its Head-Office at: 2, Kolawole Ashimi St., Ramat Junction, Ogudu GRA, Lagos, while NewsAfrica has its Nigerian Office at: Suit B6, 3/10 Military St., Onikan, Lagos. E-mail: lagos@newsafrica.net

Thank   you.

Yours faithfully,

Simon Imobo-Tswam


Source: News Express

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