Banks target Okah loans

2011-05-07 20:20

South Africa’s biggest banks are panicking over money they have lent to alleged Nigerian terrorist and weapons dealer Henry Okah and his wife.

At least three banks – Standard Bank, Absa and FNB – have taken steps to recover mortgage loans issued to the Okahs.
Okah, who is being held in a Johannesburg prison, entered the 18th day of a hunger strike in protest against his “torturous” and “inhuman” solitary confinement as a prisoner awaiting trial.

In an interview with City Press, he claimed he was being held alone in a communal cell intended for more than 40 prisoners and that blinds on the cell windows blocked out the sun.

The banks claimed that Okah and his wife, Azuka, lied about their incomes to obtain loans to buy a series of properties in South Africa.

Okah’s wife this week said she would fight a summons from Standard Bank aimed at recalling its mortgage loan of almost R700 000 on a house in Forest Hill, Johannesburg.

She said the summons was part of a conspiracy against her and her husband.

According to the Nigerian government, Okah is the leader of the country’s most feared rebel group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend).

His arrest came within 24 hours of the deaths of 12 people in a car bombing during Nigeria’s celebration of 50 years of independence at Eagle Square in Abuja in October last year. Mend claimed responsibility for the explosions.
During an hour-long interview with City Press from a prison pay phone, Okah denied he was the leader of the rebel group.

He claimed that Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan had personally phoned President Jacob Zuma last year and asked for him to be arrested for the explosions.

Okah has been denied bail on numerous occasions since his arrest last year.

His lawyers, Piet du Plessis and Rudi Krause of BDK Attorneys, this week said the charges against him were vague and that the state wasn’t making all the information they had requested available.

Krause said Azuka Okah owned several houses, which she regarded as investments.

According to her, numerous other Nigerians live in the Forest Hill house in addition to a member of the metro police.

She said this week she had a home loan with each of the country’s four big banks.

FNB, Standard Bank and Absa declined to comment on their attempts to minimise the risk attached to the Okahs.

Nedbank did not respond to requests for comment.

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