Saraki, Mark, Others in Trouble as Presidency Orders Probe of Nigerians Named in #PanamaPapers

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The senate president, Bukola Saraki, and his predecessor, David Mark, and other prominent Nigerians may soon be in trouble as the Presidency has ordered the investigation of present and past Nigerian officials named in the Panama Papers scandal.

The chairman of the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, Sam Saba, confirmed the directive to PREMIUM TIMES.

This newspaper had published leaked papers from a Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonsecca, which were obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

The 2.6 TB files, involving 214,488 entities, exposed incredible secrets of the underworld economy, where a network of banks, law firms and other middlemen utilize shell companies, sometimes to hide illegal wealth.

PREMIUM TIMES identified at least 110 Nigerians and companies operating offshore shell companies in tax havens.

Mr. Saba said the Presidency forwarded names of some persons mentioned in the Panama Papers, to the agency for investigation.

“I want to let you know that government has written to us and given us some names based on what they have been reading and hearing regarding that document,” Mr. Saba said.

He said as soon as the #PanamaPapers reporting started, the CCB attempted to get the full leaks until PREMIUM TIMES assisted it by making some details for its scrutiny.

Mr. Saba said the CCB, after studying the papers, has questions for some public officers in the country.

He would not, however, disclose the names of the affected public officers.

“I think it (Panama Papers) is going to be helpful because already we have some questions for certain public officers, which I will not be able to disclose at the moment. Until they finish answering those questions, I may not be able to discuss it,” he said.

The CCB boss said the agency took some time to respond because it could not secure the leaked documents.

“I tried to access the document via the internet, but I was required to subscribe and pay some money, which I didn’t have,” Mr. Saba said.

“That was what stalled our effort at the time. But I later asked my counterpart in the ICPC if he was in the picture and he replied in the negative. He, however, advised me to approach PREMIUM TIMES.”

Public officers who may be investigated by the CCB

Senate President, Bukola Saraki

Four assets listed in the secret offshore accounts carry Mr. Saraki’s name, but the embattled senate president failed to disclose them in violation of Nigeria’s Code of Conduct law.

One of the companies in Mrs. Saraki’s name in Seychelles Island is Sandon Development Limited, a vehicle used in acquiring a property on 8 Whittaker Street, Belgravia, London, in 2012.

Another shareholder listed for that company is Babatunde Morakinyo, a long-term personal aide and friend of Mr. Saraki. PREMIUM TIMES confirmed that the assets actually belong to Mr. Saraki, and not his wife, Toyin.

Evidence showed that Mrs. Saraki and Mr. Morakinyo were mere fronts and nominee directors holding assets in trust for the Senate president.

According to one of the documents obtained by this newspaper, Mr. Sakari, while still Kwara State governor, and describing himself as landlord of 8 Whittaker Street, London and 70 Bourne Street, London, executed a deed granting his tenants license to alter the premises of the properties.

A part of the deed reads, “This license is supplemental. The reversion immediately expectant on the determination of the lease is now vested in the landlord.

“The unexpired residue of the No. 70 (Bourne Street) lease is still vested in Dr. Saraki and the unexpired residue of the number 8 (Whittaker Street) lease is now vested in the companies.”

The deed was “signed, sealed and delivered” by Mr. Saraki on behalf of himself, Sandon Development Limited and Renocon Property Development Limited.

It was, however, from Renocon that Mrs. Saraki, posing as owner of Sandon, purportedly bought Number 8 Whittaker Street in July 2011.

Both companies belong to Mr. Saraki, but he only used a company owned by him to buy a property from another of his companies.

Toyin acted as a front for her husband in the purported transaction.

The Sarakis also own Girol Properties Ltd, which was registered on August 25, 2004 (a year after Mrs. Saraki’s husband became governor) in the British Virgin Island (BVI).

Company documents show that Mrs. Saraki owns 25,000 numbers of shares with a par value of US$ 1,00 each. She was appointed the first and only director of the company.

Mrs. Saraki had in a letter to the International Center for Investigative Journalism, ICIJ, denied having a shareholding in Girol Properties.

But this newspaper found a document linking her to the firm, as well as another handwritten document suggesting that she was known within Mossack Fonseca as just a nominee director and not the beneficial owner of the company.

Former senate president, David Mark

Former Senate president, David Mark, has links with eight offshore companies in British Virgin Island as shown by the leaked database of Mossack Fonseca.

The database showed Mr. Mark is one of Nigeria’s most extensive users of offshore shell companies, while serving as a public official.

The companies are Sikera Overseas S.A, Colsan Enterprises Limited, Goldwin Transworld Limited, Hartland Estates Limited, Marlin Holdings Limited, Medley Holdings Limited, Quetta Properties Limited, and Centenary Holdings Limited.

In the documents, Mr. Mark was repeatedly marked as a politically exposed person, and at a point the former senate president had to send documents, across to Mossack Fonseca to prove that he was clean.

The 68-year-old former military officer spent the last 40 years covered by the investigation largely as public office holder. He is widely seen to be far richer than his legitimate incomes could have provided.

He served as military governor of Nigeria’s north-central state of Niger, minister of communications, and later as president of the Nigerian Senate from 2007 to 2015.

Mr. Mark has been in the senate since 1999, and remains a senator of the federal republic, representing Benue South Zone in the upper legislative chamber.

Former National Planning Minister, Rasheed Gbadamosi

A former Minister for National Planning, Rasheed Gbadamosi, owns two expensive and luxurious penthouses in Panama, a notorious tax haven.

Mr. Gbadamosi, writer, businessman and bureaucrat, who was recently appointed co-chairman of the Lagos at 50 planning committee, bought the two properties in 2008, while serving as chairman of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA.

He paid a staggering N836.8 million ($2.6 million) for the penthouses located in a swanky tower in Panama.

According to the leaks, sometime in early 2008, the former minister approached Gilberto Aleman, a Panamanian real estate broker, to help him secure two posh penthouses owned by Nicolas Corcione, owner of Ciclones Corporation Inc, and Cosmopolitan Corp, the companies under which the properties were registered.

Valued at N436,800,000 ($1,365,000.00), Penthouse 1, the first penthouse Mr. Gbadamosi bought, is located in Ocean Park Tower 2, and consists of a surface area of 537.33 square meters, on floors 35 and 36 of the Tower.

Former Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Funsho Kupolokun

Mr. Kupolokun, 69, is one of the largest shareholders in one of Ghana’s biggest hotels, the Kempinski Accra Hotel, a 269-luxury rooms five-star facility.

But a close look at the company’s records will not reveal this fact because in 2013, Mr. Kupolokun, who was head of the NNPC between 2003 and 2007, used a shadowy offshore company registered in Mauritius, a known tax haven, to hide his shares in the company that owns the hotel.

The company, Gold Coast Resorts International Limited, is an entity incorporated in the British Virgins Island in 2006.

Details obtained by PREMIUM TIMES from the leaked Mossac Fonseca’s database showed that Mr. Kupolokun became director of Gold Coast Resorts on August 11, 2008 and personally held 17.23 per cent shares in the company.

Correspondence between Mossac Fonseca and a London-based law firm representing Mr. Kupolokun, Kennedys Law LLP, revealed that the former aide to ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo, authorized the transfer of his shares in Gold Coast to Blue Chapel, a company registered in Mauritius (another tax haven), in January 2013.

At a point, Mossac Fonseca raised concern about Mr. Kupolokun, after its compliance unit identified press reports accusing the former NNPC chief of corruption.

In response, on September 7, 2014, Mr. Kupolokun wrote, “Thanks so much, I now know what is being referred to.”

Former Delta State Governor, James Ibori

Mr. Ibori, is found to have established limited liability companies and foundations in secret offshore tax havens to hide some of the funds he looted from the state’s treasury, a leak of secret tax documents has revealed.

The former governor, who is currently serving jail term in the United Kingdom after pleading guilty to fraud charges in 2012, enlisted his immediate family as beneficiaries of the offshore companies and foundations.

To hide his loot, Mr. Ibori, working through a Swiss asset management firm, Clamorgan S.A. in Geneva, established several offshore companies, including Stanhope Investments Limited, a foundation, Julex Foundation, and a trust, The Hopes Trust, enlisting himself, his wife and daughters as beneficiaries.

Clamorgan prides itself as a company that provides asset management, fiduciary services, immovable property administration, amongst others, and operates under the laws of Geneva, Switzerland.

After almost five years of playing cat and mouse with Nigerian and British authorities, the former governor capitulated on February 27, 2012, pleading guilty in a London court to 10 counts of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud. Before Judge Anthony Pitts, Mr. Ibori admitted stealing $250million as alleged by the prosecution.

A former Group Managing Director, NNPC, Abubakar Yar’Adua

Mr. Yar’Adua bought a posh home worth £890,000 in London using a secret offshore company he registered in the British Virgin Island. Leaked files showed the offshore company to be Hydrocarbon Assets Investments Limited.

Mr. Yar’Adua bought the house in 2008, while serving as the Group Managing Director of the NNPC. He became NNPC GMD in August 2007, and was removed from office in January 2009.

In April 2008, eight months after he took the NNPC top job, Mr. Yar’Adua used a London residence address at Beechwood Hall, Regents Park Road, London N3 3AT to register an offshore company, Hydrocarbon Assets Investments Limited in the British Virgin Island.

To cover his track, Mr. Yar’Adua prepared a corporate smokescreen by appointing two front companies to act as directors of Hydrocarbon Assets Investments Limited.

Documents seen by PREMIUM TIMES showed that on November 7, 2008, Mr. Yar’Adua was the sole director of Hydrocarbon Assets Investments Limited.

He resigned on the said day but appointed two companies, Gudson Limited and Roselle Limited as directors of his company.

Additional documents scooped from the Mossack Fonseca files exposed how Mr. Yar’Adua utilized his Hydrocarbon Assets Investments Limited to secure a loan from Dexia Private Bank Limited in Jersey.

This he used to purchase a property worth £890,000 in London. Dexia Private Jersey Limited, Hydrocarbon Assets Investment Limited and Mr. Yar’Adua signed the loan agreement on November 18, 2008. It was effected on December 2, 2008.

The property, until now a secret, is located in a freehold estate at 28A North Crescent, Finchley, London N3 3LL. It was registered under the title number NGL624398. A freehold property refers to outright ownership of a property and land on which it stands. The owner of the land has no time limit to his period of ownership.

Andy Uba, Senator, Anambra State

In November 2004, Mr. Uba was only a special assistant on domestic affairs to the then President Olusegun Obasanjo but he possibly had enormous wealth in his hands that he sought the services of the offshore handlers, Mossack Fonseca, to float for him an anonymous company.

Now a serving senator, Mr. Uba, owns a shell company by name Wentworth Properties Limited in the Republic of Seychelles, an infamous tax haven.

Andy Uba’s net worth was insignificant before May 29, 1999 when Olusegun Obasanjo was sworn in as president. He later returned from the United States to be appointed a presidential aide.

He is believed to have become suddenly rich, running for governor in 2007, and then for senatorial position after his governorship election was annulled.

Mr. Uba’s offshore structure in the Seychelles was erected with the help of two women, Marta Edghill and Vianca Scott, believed to be his fronts.

Minutes of the first meeting of the board of directors of Wentworth Properties Ltd showed that the said meeting was held on November 3, 2004. The minutes said the two women constituted the totality of the board of directors.

Marta Edghill and Vianca Scott elected themselves President and Secretary of the company respectively.

David Umaru, Senator, Niger State

In his native Niger State, David Umaru, the All Progressives Congress, APC, senator representing Niger East Senatorial District, is something of a folk hero.

He was a thorn under the skin of the immediate past administration of Governor Babangida Aliyu. He was an unwavering critic and soon gained the reputation of a whistleblower after be published series of advertorials in national newspapers exposing alleged corrupt practices by the Mu’azu Babangida administration.

But one aspect of his life Mr. Umaru would hesitate to see on the pages of newspapers is his dealings in notorious offshore tax havens and his role in laundering money for the country’s most notorious dictator ever, Sani Abacha.

Documents obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, revealed that Mr. Umaru incorporated two shell companies in the British Virgin Islands.

The first company, Yorkshire Investment Limited was incorporated on April 27, 1998 with a registered address at No2 Commercial Centre Square, Alofi, the capital of the Niue Island.

The company was incorporated by International Trust Company (ITC), a Niue-based registering agent. In other to conceal the true ownership of the shell company, ITC provided two nominee directors for the company – Melvin Scales (Chairman) and Ramses Owens.

Mr. Umaru was named the true and lawful attorney of the company. Not satisfied by the incorporation of his first shell company, five months later, exactly on September 15, 1998, Mr. Umaru again went shopping for his second shell company – Darweng Holding. This time he decided to incorporate it in the British Virgin Islands.

Ibrahim Gobir, Senator, Sokoto State

Ibrahim Gobir, an All Progressives Congress, APC, lawmaker, who represents Sokoto East Senatorial District in the National Assembly has also been named in the leaked document as having secret offshore accounts.