Paradise Papers: Document counters Saraki’s claim that he broke no law
by Bassey Udo, PremiumTimes
The asset declaration form the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, filed in 2003 after he became governor has countered the politician’s claim that he complied with the Code of Conduct and Tribunal law as far as his Cayman Islands company, Tenia Limited, is concerned.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported on Monday that the senator violated the law by failing to disclose a company he owned and ran (as sole shareholder and director) in an offshore tax haven while holding full-time appointment in Nigeria as governor and senator. Mr. Saraki established the company in 2001, two years before he became governor of Kwara.
But while reacting to the publication, which is part of this newspaper’s ongoing Paradise Papers series, the senator said through his spokesperson, Yusuph Olaniyonu, “For the umpteenth time, we will reiterate the fact that the Senate President has fully complied with the law on assets declaration, even as it concerns the company under reference.”
However, Mr. Saraki’s asset declaration filing obtained by PREMIUM TIMES showed that the politician’s submission to the Code of Conduct Bureau after his election in 2003 did not include Tenia Limited.
In that document, the senator only listed European and American Trading Company, Tyberry Corporation, Eficaz Ltd., Gensoft, All Africa Media Company, Merrill HHB Fund, Mundernet Fund and Izorch Incorporated as the only eight offshore companies he held substantial or ordinary stockholdings outside Nigeria.
He also failed to declare the company when he was reelected governor in 2007 and senator in 2011 and 2015. Yet he admitted that the company was only struck off in 2015.
SEE TABLE OF THE ASSETS MR SARAKI DECLARED IN 2003 BELOW.
Nigeria’s Code of Conduct Act mandates all public officials to, on assumption of office, complete and return assets declaration forms to the Code of Conduct Bureau, after swearing to an affidavit before a High Court Judge on a date not exceeding 30 days after receiving the form.
The law says the submission should also cover assets owned by spouses and children below the age of 18.
By failing to declare that offshore company, the senator violated that law, and the Code of Conduct Tribunal could slam a criminal charge on him.
Mr. Saraki recently faced a 13-count corruption charge at the Tribunal over alleged false declaration of assets. He was acquitted and discharged by the court but the Nigerian government has since appealed the verdict.
Mr. Saraki appears a serial user of offshore companies to conceal assets.
PREMIUM TIMES had during its #PanamaPapers reporting in 2016 linked three firms to the senator. The first, Girol Properties Ltd., was registered in the British Virgin Island (BVI) on August 25, 2004 (a year after the politician became governor).
The second company, Sandon Development Limited, was registered in Seychelles Island on January 12, 2011 and had Mrs. Saraki and one Babatunde Morakinyo, (a long-term personal aide and friend of Mr. Saraki) as shareholders.
The third hidden company in the name of Mrs. Saraki is Landfield International Developments Ltd. It was registered in the British Virgin Islands on April 8, 2014.
The companies were never disclosed as required by law, and the Nigerian authorities are yet to bring charges against the senator despite several promises to do so.