N25bn damages suit: FIRS, bank want out of court settlement

Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and a first-generation bank have opted for out of court settlement in a N25 billion damages suit brought against them by an indigenous company, Biatemp Ventures Ltd over alleged account manipulation.

The company had sued the bank and FIRS before a Federal High Court, Abuja, demanding N25 billion special and general damages over alleged manipulation of its domiciliary account and illegal withholding of its tax clearance certificate.

Biantemp alleged that the bank manipulated its domiciliary account with over-bloated turnover of over 6.8 million dollar (about N2.4 billion) whereas the deposit made to the account within the period was only 22, 475 dollars (about N786,000).

At the resumed hearing of the matter before Justice Binta Murtala Nyako, counsel to the two defendants informed the court that their clients were interested in settling the matter out of court.

Messrs S.M. Jimmy and N.J. Kalu representing the bank and FIRS respectively prayed the court to adjourn the matter to allow parties further explore the out of court settlement already set in motion.

Counsel to the plaintiff, Lloyd Ekweremadu confirmed the position and did not oppose the request for adjournment.

Ekweremadu said that, though the case was set for the hearing of the motion of the 2nd respondent’s to amend its Statement of Defence, he would not oppose the request for adjournment of the case and confirmed that the respondents had approached his client seeking to settle the case out of court.

Trial Judge, Justice Nyako expressed delight over the development and stressed that the court always encourage parties in disputes to explore alternative resolution options.

The court adjourned the matter till December 2 for the Report of Settlement.

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The plaintiff had alleged in the suit that the manipulation of the account was discovered by the FIRS intelligent findings when it filed its 2018 tax return forms and awaiting issuance of 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unit discovered that the company had a turnover of over 6.8 million dollars in its corporate account which was withdrawn by its Chief Executive Officer in about four respective transactions.

FIRS, therefore, requested the company to pay a revised tax liability of about 439,000 dollars 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 dollars being consultancy fee paid by its client, Forte Upstream Services Ltd.

In a statement of defence to the suit, FIRS had indicted the bank claiming that it received from it, the purported over-bloated turnover of the account of the plaintiff.

Specifically, FIRS said that it received from the bank a compact disc containing evidence that the company received a cash flow of over 6.8 million dollars, adding that it acted based on the information provided by the bank.

The bank, on its part, had denied the allegations that it manipulated the account of the plaintiff.

In a statement of defence, the bank claimed: that: “The plaintiff’s account was never at any point in time tampered with, let alone manipulated.”

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