Officials say boxes supposedly sending old banknotes for destruction were actually full of newspaper
The old bills were recycled back into the economy, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission says
EFCC says over the years, the scam hurt Nigeria's economy
Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)Six top executives in Nigeria's Central Bank are facing charges following the alleged theft of the equivalent of more than $40 million.
The suspects are accused of replacing Nigeria's old, defaced and mutilated naira notes, meant for destruction, with newspaper cut into the shape of the naira notes.
The newspaper was then destroyed and the old currency recycled back into the economy, according to Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Sixteen other commercial bankers have also been arrested and charged with conspiracy.
"They literally allowed greed and craze for materialism to becloud their sense of judgement and responsibility," reads a statement from the EFCC.
The process of destroying counted and audited "dirty" currency is known as briquetting. The crime was only discovered when a member of the briquetting team in the Oshogbo branch, in southwest Nigeria, opened one of the cardboard boxes meant for destruction and found it filled, not with naira, but with newspaper.
The bank issued a statement describing how bank staffers discovered the alleged scheme.
"As soon as the bank's internal investigations concluded beyond reasonable doubt that some wrongdoing had occurred, the affected members of staff who are middle-level officers were, depending on gravity of offence, either summarily dismissed or immediately placed on indefinite suspension on October 21, 2014, and all handed over to the EFCC for further investigation and prosecution," said the statement from CBN's director of corporate communications, Ibrahim Mu'azu.
The EFCC said the scam has gone on for years.
"The fraud is partly to blame for the failure of government monetary policy over the years as currency mop up exercises by the apex (Central) bank failed to check the inflationary pressure on the economy," the EFCC said in a statement.
If true, it's a crime in which no one was hurt, but the whole country paid.
Journalist Aminu Abubakar contributed to this report.
Dr Njoroge, who is currently an adviser to a deputy managing director at the IMF, has a PhD in economics from Yale University and previously served in Kenya’s finance and planning ministries.