Zantac Lawsuit

Researching drug company and regulatory malfeasance for over 16 years
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Thursday, February 18, 2016

EXCLUSIVE: GSK's Promo Scam & The Gulf Bank of Nigeria

When you write non-fiction, you sit down at your desk with a pile of notebooks, newspaper clippings, and books and you research and put a book together the way you would a jigsaw puzzle.
 ~ Janine di Giovanni.

GSK's Promo Scam & The Gulf Bank of Nigeria

Investigation by Bob Fiddaman
(Updates at foot of post)

No matter what part of the world GSK find themselves in there's always trouble just around the corner.

News coming out of Nigeria will add to GSK's woes after it's been alleged that employees have been running a promotional scam for its energy drink, Lucozade, and its soft drink, Ribena. (Link)

According to the charge, Dayanand Thandalam Siram, Jonathan Murray, Uchenna Uwechia, all of Glaxosmithkline Consumer Nigeria PLC, persuaded the citizens of Nigeria to buy their products using the slogan,  “BIG CASH GIVE AWAY”. (Photo above)

The offence alleged to have been committed by Glaxosmithkline Consumer Nigeria Plc and its officials are contrary to and punishable under section(1)3 of the advance fee fraud and other related offences Act laws of the Federation of Nigeria.

Section(1)3 of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act is defined as...

A person who, being the occupier or is concerned in the management of any premises, causes or knowingly permits the premises to be used for any purpose which constitutes an offence under this Act commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less more than 15 years and not less than five years without the option of a fine.

Dayanand Thandalam Siram, Jonathan Murray, Uche Uwechia, Glaxosmithkline Consumer Nigeria PLC and others, now at large, are alleged to have established and keep the premises of 1, Industrial Avenue, Ilupeju, Lagos as a place for the purpose of a lottery to be used for the purposes of obtaining by false pretense from the Nigerian public.

GSK's head office in Nigeria is located at 1, Industrial Avenue, Ilupeju, Lagos so it would appear that those who stand accused of the offences carried out those offences at GSK's Head Office in Lagos.

It's alleged that Rahul Culaco, Omolara Banjoko, Adebayo Elegbe, Shelewa Ashimi, and Friesland Campina Wamco Nigeria Plc also used GSK's Head Office to carry out offences.

Rahul Colaco's Facebook page (here) claims that he is currently living in Nigeria yet works at Dutch Lady, which is in Malaysia?

Omolara Banjoko's LinkedIn page (here) states that she is currently Senior Brand Manager at Royal FrieslandCampina in Lagos, Nigeria. Friesland Campina WAMCO Nigeria PLC is a multinational manufacturing company: it is an affiliate of Royal Friesland Campina of The Netherlands, the world’s largest dairy cooperative.

Nothing is known about Adebayo Elegbe or Shelewa Ashimi.

It's unknown exactly what sort of criminal offence was carried out here. Did Glaxo and their employees pay out cash to "winners" of the lottery who weren't really winners? A check of the Lagos Judiciary website sees no case filed.

In May 2015 it was reported that a total of 14 million naira was given out to lucky consumers of the Lucozade Ribena drink promotion. Eight winners were rewarded with the sum of N1,000,000 (roughly $5000) each, 600 winners of N10,000 (roughly $50) were also electronically drawn through the eight-week campaign period. The eight lucky millionaires, selected randomly through electronic draws held at the company’s corporate office in Lagos, were Glory Idoda, Henry Oboro, Jude Nwosu and Osawe Valentina,  Akan Essinwang, Ibe Ejike, Tomide and James Etukpo. It's unknown if any of the eight millionaires are implicated in the fraud or, indeed, if the other alleged winners were actually real or, if indeed, they were paid. See video.

I asked GSK Consumer Relations if Dayanand Thandalam Siram, Jonathan Murray and Uchenna Uwechia had been put under suspension pending an inquiry. Despite my email being addressed to Andrew Witty and GSK Board Members, a Glaxo spokesperson told me, "You have reached GSK’s Consumer Relations Department in the UK and we are only able to handle enquiries and complaints for products marketed in Great Britain and Republic of Ireland."

So, I wrote to GSK Nigeria, as yet they have not replied.

The story doesn't end here, in fact it takes a rather bizarre twist.


Dayanand Thandalam Sriram - Managing Director of GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Nigeria Plc

In 2014 appointed Mr. Dayanand Thandalam Sriram (above) as the Managing Director of the Company, he'd previously joined the company in 1995 taking on Sales leadership roles. He is also on the Board of Directors at GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Nigeria Plc.

Jonathan Murray - Senior Finance Director at GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Nigeria Plc

Jonathan Murray (above) is the Senior Finance Director at GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Nigeria Plc. Previously Murray held the positions of Financial Controller and Senior Business Risk Consultant at GSK.

Uchenna Uwechia, GSK Consumer Nigeria Plc's Legal Director and Company Secretary

Uchenna Uwechia, GSK Consumer Nigeria Plc's Legal Director and Company Secretary, has quite a history. And this is where the story gets rather interesting, well, it does for me, at least, as none of the media outlets reporting on the promotional scam have mentioned what I have learned about Mr Uchenna Uwechia.

It's had me spending hours, days, weeks, trawling the internet and has been as frustrating as trying to work out the plot for the movie, Inception.

Before joining Glaxo in 2006, Uwechia was the Company Secretary & Legal Adviser of the Gulf Bank of Nigeria Plc.  (See Fig 1) Uwechia, along with seven others, were, in 2014, arraigned on an amended 21-count charge bordering on fraud and financial malpractices. All of the 8 accused were alleged to have converted over N12 billion from the defunct bank, Gulf Bank of Nigeria Plc (in the guise of granting loans and overdraft facilities to various companies, without appropriate accounting records.)

The accused were alleged to have converted and appropriated a total of $55.3million (£38million) and over N3.7billion belonging to the bank.

Uwechia held the position of Company Secretary & Legal Adviser of the Gulf Bank of Nigeria Plc between the years 2001 – April 2006 and was accused of aiding Prince Adekunle Adeyeba Johnson, the Director of the bank, in converting the landed property to personal use.

Fig 1
Snapshot LinkedIn page taken 7th Feb, 2015

Here's Commissioner of Police Tunde Ogunshakin talking about the investigation into the Gulf Bank of Nigeria...

"Investigations further revealed that the bank expended over $9.8 million and N1.8 billion through LYK Engineering Limited, for the development of Petrochemical and Refinery Project, yet the project never existed. There is no company named Akwa Ibom Refinery and Petrochemical Limited. We have a letter from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to that effect. "

Why did Glaxo employ someone from a bank that had just been liquidated amid fraud allegations, it just doesn't make any business sense?

As good as I am at research (self appointed blowing of trumpets here) I've not been able to find out the outcome of the Gulf Bank of Nigeria trial. For whatever reason, the outcome, if indeed an outcome was ever reached, has never been made public - was a plea bargain agreement with the prosecution made?

With this in mind, I wrote to both the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) and the Nigerian Police Force and asked if a verdict was ever reached regarding this case. Neither of them replied.

If anyone should know how corruption can tarnish the image of a company then GlaxoSmithKline should, right?

In 2014, Glaxo were found guilty of bribery throughout its China operations. Glaxo were handed down a fine of almost $500 million and five of the company's managers, including Mark Reilly, its former top China executive, were convicted of bribery-related charges and received suspended prison sentences.

At the time of the guilty verdict in China various independent analysts and capital market operators, in and around Nigeria, said that the Nigerian government should also mount searchlight on the operations of GSK Nigeria to ensure that the company is not employing the same unethical practices it is being accused of in China to boost the Nigerian operations.

It appears as though they were right given the recent alleged criminal activity (Fake lotto) by GlaxoSmithKline Nigeria PLC and three of its employees.

This is not some minor blip, this is three main men at GlaxoSmithKline Nigeria PLC, one of whom has already been embroiled in fraud allegations. It's some example they appear to be setting out in Lagos.

Corruption, it seems, is a major problem in Nigeria. In 2015, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari took steps and cracked the whip against Nigeria's corruption. In July, he sacked all military and security chiefs. In August, he forced the resignation of the leadership suite of the national oil company.

Nigerian business analyst, Yusha'u Aliyu, has even gone on record as saying, "There's corruption everywhere in the global economy, no matter where you look. But in developing countries and especially in Nigeria, it's extreme." 

Are GlaxoSmithKline Nigeria part of the extreme corruption that Aliyu speaks of?

I took to Twitter to try and find out if GlaxoSmithKline were trying to play down the Ribena/Lucozade scam. I tweeted them a series of questions, to my surprise they replied. I asked them how I could get in touch with GSK Nigeria's Legal Counsel, Uchenna Uwechia? Their reply to me and my subsequent response can be seen in the image below.

They stopped engaging with me after my replies.

So, what we have here is GlaxoSmithKline's current legal counsel in Nigeria named in a 2016 complaint which is contrary to and punishable under section(1)3 of the advance fee fraud and other related offences Act laws of the Federation of Nigeria. What we also have is GlaxoSmithKline's current legal counsel in Nigeria implicated in fraud or theft of over N15 billion (US$75 million) (£50 million) from Gulf Bank Nigeria PLC.

What we don't appear to have is the outcome of the trial - it's not available folks and I doubt very much if the Nigerian authorities will ever release that information. I just don't have the resources to pull such information. Who knows, maybe journalists with the backing of their newspapers, will be able to pull the information that is seemingly all elusive.

Reporting in Nigeria is somewhat of a minefield. According to a BBC report from March 2015, "In Nigeria, established newspapers are paid to keep big stories off the front page. Adverts are supposed to buy silence.

"Often, Next would run a story in its popular weekend edition, only for editors to arrive at the office on Monday to meet an aggrieved marketing team - certain big advertisers had terminated their business that morning."


How's this for irony?

In November 2013 Uchenna Uwechia spoke at a programme jointly organised by the Society for Corporate Governance Nigeria (SCGN) and the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE). He said...

"Complying with the legal and regulatory framework by corporate players was crucial in improving corporate governance.
"The consequences of non-compliance included disgorgement, refunds, reprimands, fines/penalties, suspension, revocation of licence, criminal prosecution, as well as loss of reputation."
I've wrote to all the editors at the top newspapers in Nigeria, I've even emailed the Lagos Judiciary asking them all the same question. What was the outcome of the Gulf Bank of Nigeria PLC trial. It's been two weeks now and not one single reply.

I even wrote to the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) to alert them of my findings. The SFO are currently investigating GSK and they did write back to me to thank me for the information and to tell me that it had "been forwarded to the case team."

The elusive outcome of the Gulf Bank trial may interest the American Department of Justice (DOJ) too. Commissioner of Police Tunde Ogunshakin, who was the head of  the Special Fraud Unit (SFU) who investigated the Gulf Bank fraud, said, "The investigation revealed the theft and laundering of billions of Naira and millions of U. S Dollars." 

Laundering US Dollars, huh?

I can only assume that none of those implicated in the Gulf Bank fraud were ever prosecuted, so they were either found not guilty or a secret deal was struck with the prosecution. Whatever way you slice it, it's hardly comforting for GlaxoSmithKline's shareholders knowing that the current Head of Legal/Company Secretary at GlaxoSmithKline Nigeria has been implicated in a fake lottery scam carried out on GSK's premises. Furthermore, it would appear, guilty or not, this is not the first time Glaxo's Nigerian Head of Legal has been implicated in fraudulent activities.

If anyone can find the outcome of the trial it will be the SFO or DOJ. Here's hoping they can. It may be another opportunity to raid GSK offices, seeing as one of those accused in the Gulf Bank fraud is currently employed by GlaxoSmithKline Nigeria.

To throw further worms into the can I've seemingly opened, I'll leave the last words to Segun Adeleye, Editor of WorldStage, an online news magazine in Nigeria whom I wrote to requesting the outcome of the Gulf Bank Trial. He told me...

"Sorry, we don't have new information about the story, though we will make inquiry, in fact, we lost our initial material that you sent to hackers attacks sometime ago."

The mind boggles at just how deep this case involving GSK's current Head of Legal in Nigeria goes.


Interesting development in the Gulf Bank case.

It appears the Judge who arraigned the original 8 is now the subject of an investigation regarding bribes. (Source)

Special thanks to @NeLLLieBly  for this information.



Statement from GSK Regarding "Fake Lottery Promo" (HERE)

Snapshot of blog visits 21 March 2016.
Glaxo Nigeria, Glaxo HQ in London and the US Department of Justice all visit this post within minutes of one another.

Click image to enlarge

Bob Fiddaman.

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