by Adaobi Ndubusi,
First Group, the Dubai firm whose Abuja office was sealed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged $200bn scam, says it will “explore all legal options to defend its commercial reputation in Nigeria”.
On Wednesday, the anti-graft agency sealed off the First Group Abuja office for its alleged involvement in the purchase of property in Dubai by Tukur Buratai, a lieutenant-general and chief of army staff.
“As part of the ongoing probe of the laundering of over $200billion loot in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) by former political office holders, operatives of the EFCC today, July 13th 2016, stormed the office of a Dubai property firm, The First Group Company, in Abuja,” it said in a statement.
“The EFCC team raided the company’s seventh-floor office at the Bank of Industry building in the Central Business District of the Federal Capital Territory after obtaining a search warrant.
“The company is also being investigated for allegedly defrauding unsuspecting Nigerians by luring them to invest in real estate in Dubai. A prominent Nigerian is alleged to have lost about $402, 000 in a phony real estate transaction with the company.”
But responding on Friday in a statement signed by Eve Humpreys, its director of brand and marketing communications, the Dubai firm described EFCC’s claims were “baseless”.
“The First Group categorically denies the baseless allegations published by certain sections of the Nigerian press regarding its alleged involvement in money laundering or any other form of illegal business dealings in relation to its Nigerian clients,” read the statement.
“The First Group’s Nigerian agent, TFG Real Estate, Limited, fully abides by Nigeria’s anti-money laundering regulations.
“In line with this commitment, TFG Real Estate, Limited regularly files the required reports with the section of the Special Control Unit on Money Laundering (SCUML) division of the EFCC in Abuja.
“Furthermore, The First Group’s Dubai operations, which are indirectly implicated in these baseless allegations, are governed by UAE Federal Law, and in particular, the country’s anti- money laundering laws, which rank among the world’s most robust.”
The company maintained that its clients are also protected by the Dubai government’s “rigorous and world-class real estate regulations”, designed to protect the interests of local and international investors in this dynamic property market.
“The First Group is fully transparent in its operations and has a proven track-record of delivering world-class developments in the United Arab Emirates over many years,” it added.
“Its priority is protecting the interests of its clients and generating strong returns on their investments while complying with all legal statutes in the markets in which it operates.
“In respect to the current media speculation, The First Group will explore all legal options to defend its commercial reputation in Nigeria.”
First Group, a British-owned international hotel and property development company, has its global headquarters in Dubai, its offices spanning Moscow, Almaty, Kazan, Astana, Baku, Abuja, Lagos, Jeddah, Riyadh, Khobar, Mumbai and most recently Accra and Algiers.