Banker at African Lender's U.K. Unit Said to Be Arrested in 2017

(Bloomberg) -- The former head of the London unit of Union Bank of Nigeria Plc was arrested last year as part of a bribery probe, according to four people with knowledge of the case, solving a mystery hinted at by U.K. prosecutors this week.

Maurice Phido was detained by police in May 2017, the people said, who asked not to be identified because his name isn’t public. Phido was released on bail after his arrest and went back to Nigeria, according to one of the people.

An official from the U.K. National Crime Agency hinted at the case this week when he told a crowd of lawyers at a conference in Cambridge, England, about an arrest of the head of a London unit of a foreign bank, without revealing the individual’s identity or saying when the arrest took place. Nigel Kirby, the deputy director of the NCA’s economic crime unit, said that the case is being evaluated by prosecutors after a seven-month investigation found possible corruption. The person Kirby was describing was Phido, according to one of the people.

Union Bank said it isn’t being investigated for bribery, nor has it been investigated in the past. It referred questions about the case to Phido, who no longer works at the bank. Phido didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment via his LinkedIn account.

A spokeswoman for NCA didn’t immediately provide a comment, and a spokeswoman for the CPS declined to comment.

Phido’s term as chief executive officer in London ended on May 26, 2017, according to the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority’s register of approved persons.

The Nigerian firm, headquartered in Lagos, has gained increasing media coverage in recent months after former Barclays Plc CEO Bob Diamond raised his company’s stake in the lender to 49 percent. Atlas Mara Ltd., which Diamond co-founded, specializes in investing in banking operations in sub-Saharan Africa.

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