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Ownership tussle, N1bn fraud unsettle Star Orient depot

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Star Orient PHOTO: Star Orient

*Babalola clarifies ties, denies threats to bomb int.l airport, facility

Star Orient aviation fuel depot at Lagos Airport has been engulfed in an ownership tussle and financial crisis with unsettling effects on its operations.

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The development, currently being investigated by the Special Fraud Unit, Lagos, has scaled down operations of the facility.

The fraud unit was earlier petitioned to investigate the former Managing Director, Dare Osamo, over alleged laundering of about N1 billion.

Founder of Star Synergy, a conglomerate that hosts Star Orient among other companies, Babatunde Babalola, in turn, petitioned the Police claiming ownership of the company and alleging that directors (Olanrewaju Bamgbose and Isaac Adewole) obtained a loan of N500 million from FCMB without authorisation.

The directors have faulted Babalola’s ownership claim. By extension, they petitioned DSS over Babalola’s alleged threat to bomb the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) and Star Orient depot.

Babalola, regretted the conflict of interest, saying it has staved off the erstwhile thriving aviation service provider to a shadow of its old self.

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Babalola told reporters that the aviation depot dated back to 2011, and purpose-built to serve Discovery Airways, a subsidiary company under Star Synergy group.

“Star Orient wasn’t a standalone company but a member of the Star Synergy group. I got the land and built the depot to serve my airline. We had challenges at Discovery Airways, Hence, the depot began to serve other airlines as an aviation fuel company. That was the plan. None of them (directors) were there when I was building the depot. It was when I finished building it that I called them (Bamgbose and Osamo) as my friends, to come and hold shares in trust and represent me in the company,” he said.

He added that the depot had a good run of form until it ran into a financial crisis and went into a Joint Venture with another company owned by Isaac Adewole, “to bring in product for sale and share profit.”

“I know all of them, including Adewole, who is a pastor in my church. About a year ago, they told me that they were looking for N1.4 billion, which I dismissed as a joke. Apparently, they have lost money. How they did it, I don’t know because I didn’t interfere in the running of the company. Yet, Osamo and Adewole are the signatories to the account. So, I want the police to do their investigation and unravel the whole issue.

“I have kept quiet for this long until they went to court on a winding proceeding. That is shocking to me. There is something they are trying to hide and they are on a plot to take over my company. They borrowed N500 million from FCMB using my depot as collateral. What did they do with it? It has not been accounted for.

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“Yet they want me to give them my other collateral to get further loans for enhancement with another bank, and I said no. I said I want my shares back, and an account for the loans they have taken before they can take another loan. These are the issues. But we will wait for the preliminary report of the police and the law taking its cause on the matter.”

The JV pact between Star Orient and Adewole shows detail of the trade of agreement, though foreclosed directorship and ownership of the fuel depot. The trusteeship agreement on Start Orient also showed Babalola as the Chairman, Board of Directors.

On the threat to bomb the international airport, Babalola said it was the most grievous part of the scheme.

“I actually wanted a forensic audit of that place by PwC, which they refused. But they have actually been going all around; they have been to Zone 2, EFCC, and other places. But I didn’t follow them because I have no business in those places. The one that pained me was their petition to the DSS that I wanted to bomb the airport and the depot. Why would I bomb my own company?

“I would rather focus on the challenges of the group than do that. If they could go to DSS to allege that I wanted to bomb the international airport, then they are up to something. They are desperate. Bamgbose is also a director in another of my companies, Oscon Firm, yet he told the police that he does not even know me.”

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