Company slams N25bn suit against First Bank, FIRS
An indigenous company, Biatemp Ventures Ltd. has sued First Bank of Nigeria and the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS), demanding N25 billion special and general damages over alleged manipulation of its domiciliary account and illegal withholding of its tax clearance certificate.
In the suit filed before the Federal High Court, Abuja, the company is seeking the sum of N25 billion special and general damages arising from the alleged manipulation of the account, business loss due to its withheld tax clearance and embarrassment suffered.
In the suit filed on behalf of the plaintiff by Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, chamber, the company alleged that First Bank manipulated its domiciliary account with a purported turnover of 6.8 million dollar (about N2.4 billion) leading to the withhold of its 2018 tax clearance by FIRS.
The plaintiff said the alleged manipulation of the account was discovered by the FIRS intelligent findings when it filed it’s 2018 tax return forms and awaiting issuance if its tax clearance certificate .
The plaintiff stated that, rather than issuing the certificate, FIRS accused the company of grossly understating its income.
Specifically, the federal revenue collection agency said its intelligent unit discovered that the company had a turnover of over 6.8 million dollar in its corporate account which was withdrawn by its Chief Executive Officer in about four respective transaction.
FIRS therefore requested the company to pay a revised tax liability of about 439,000 dollar before the tax clearance could be issued.
The plaintiff said it was shocked with the discovery by the FIRS because the company never transacted, deposited and withdrew amount of that magnitude in its domiciliary account within the period.
The company said the deposit made to its domiciliary account within the period was only 22,475 dollar being consultancy fee paid by its client, Forte Upstream Services Ltd.
It stated that the said deposit of 22,475 dollar was actually withdrawn by its Chief Executive Officer in about four respective transaction.
The plaintiff therefore alleged that the acclaimed deposit of over 6.8 million dollar discovered by the FIRS intelligence was an enlarged mirror of the 22,475 dollar deposited by its client for consultancy services into its account
“The alleged huge multiple cash dollar withdrawal seen to be made by the plaintiff’s Director between 7th and 21st December 2017 as captured by the FIRS were also enlarged mirrors of actual dollar withdrawals made by the plaintiff’s director”
The plaintiff said when it obtained its statement of account from First Bank the inflow and outflow of fund was in complete variance with the record made available by the FIRS.
When it confronted the FIRS with the bank statement, the revenue agency maintained its stand on the enlarged 6.8 million dollar turnover and collection of the revised tax liability before issuing the tax clearance certificate .
Being displeased with the conflicting statement of account of transaction and withheld its tax clearance certificate the company wrote a letter to the bank to lodge its displeasure over the irregularities and manipulation and demanded explanation within seven days.
The plaintiff alleged that when the bank did not respond and it is losing business opportunities, it instructed its legal adviser to write on its behalf to seek explanations from the bank as to the financial irregularities.
The Department of Consumer Protection and Banking Supervision of the CBN, the Director Bank Examination of the NDIC and the Chairman of the FIRS were all copied with the letter.
The plaintiff said the bank thereafter replied to the letter from its legal adviser notifying that investigations into the complaints had commenced, outcome and resolution would be communicated.
The company alleged that after waiting for over a month and its legal adviser had sent a reminder, it received a back dated letter from the bank denying knowledge of the alleged deposit of 6.8 million dollar into the account as claimed by the FIRS.
The bank , in the letter, said it never availed FIRS information relating to the alleged huge deposit and it had written to the revenue agency to re-compute the plaintiff’s tax liability
The plaintiff said upon receiving the bank response, its chief executive visited the FIRS Utako, Abuja office to ascertain if it received the letter from its banker and it would issue its tax clearance certificate.
It alleged that the FIRS Senior Manager, Tax, acknowledged the receipt of the letter from the bank but maintained that it did not in any way change the position of the service on the alleged huge turn over and the tax liability to be paid.
The plaintiff alleged that it was threw aback, that after all the documented allegations and without communication of how the variance was resolved, it received an e-mail from FIRS that its tax clearance had been issued and should be downloaded from its portal.
Suspicious of foul play in the way and manner the tax clearance certificate was issued and unsure of its genuineness, the company said it wrote to the FIRS requesting for authentication of the downloaded tax clearance certificate, but there was no response.
The company alleged suspicious collaboration and mutual resolution by the FIRS and First Bank on its manipulated account and issuance on the tax clearance certificate.
The plaintiff premised its allegation on alleged sudden issuance of the tax clearance certificate without explaining or communicating how the variance in the deposit and withdrawals in its account were resolved.
Meanwhile, the First Bank in its statement of defence had denied the allegations that it manipulated the account of the plaintiff, collaborated or conspired in anyway with the FIRS in issuing the tax clearance certificate.
The defence filed by its lawyer, S.M. Jimmy Esq. the bank stressed that “the plaintiff’s account was never at any point in time tampered with, let alone manipulated”.
The bank denied and took strong exception to the plaintiff’s claim that “it manipulated the plaintiff’s domiciliary account and used delay tactics to amend its records”
“There us no time that First Bank, as a well known and reputable bank in Nigeria engage in such irresponsible and scandalous act”.
It urged the court to declare that the plaintiff was not entitled to any of the reliefs sought.
The bank also asked the court to declare the case as ‘frivolous, abuse of court process, gold digging exercise and should be dismissed with substantial cost”.
Meanwhile, the case which is before Justice Binta Murtala-Nyako has been fixed for June 26 for heari