Paradise Papers: Jim Ovia alone benefited from our offshore firms — Emefiele

Godwin Emefiele and Jim Ovia
Godwin Emefiele and Jim Ovia

The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, has said that he did not benefit financially from the three companies linked to him and Jim Ovia, the chairman of Zenith Bank, in tax havens.

He said the offshore firms were entirely arranged by Mr. Ovia and that it was the Zenith Bank chairman alone who reaped from the ventures.

Mr. Emefiele said he only served as director and shareholder of the companies in response to Mr. Ovia’s request.

“At no time did our client derive any personal financial benefit from shares in Vitesse or Oviation Asset Management Limited (“OAML”) or from his directorship of OAML,” Mr. Emefiele said through his London-based lawyers, New Media Law LLP.

“When acting in relation to these companies our client was not acting for his personal financial benefit. Our client acted throughout in relation to Vitesse and OAML at the request of Mr. Ovia.”

PREMIUM TIMES had, as part of its ongoing Paradise Papers series, reported on Monday that Mr. Emefiele, a former managing director at Zenith Bank plc, partly owned Vitesse Asset Management SA, incorporated in Switzerland in 2007; Oviation Asset Management Limited, a Bermuda company established in 2009; and Oviation Limited, an Isle of Man company incorporated in 2012.

That revelation emerged following a review of data obtained by German newspaper, Suddeutsche Zeitung, and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists from two offshore secrecy providers (Appleby and Asiaciti Trust) and 19 secrecy jurisdictions.

The CBN governor, while responding to an enquiry sent to him by The Guardian UK on behalf of PREMIUM TIMES and other ICIJ team members working on the investigation, said after he resigned from his position in the companies following his appointment as CBN governor, Mr. Ovia became the sole beneficiary in the businesses conducted by the shell companies.

He however said even before his resignation and departure from the companies, he enjoyed no personal financial interest from the deals.

Mr. Emefiele said through his lawyers, “We now refer to the bank account that was opened by OAML (Oviation Assets Management Limited), maintained and operated for the sole purpose of supporting the aircraft ownership and operating structure.

“Our client had no personal interest in any funds in this bank account. As you clearly hold (improperly) some of the banking information relating to this account, you will be aware that there are no transfers that have been made that would benefit our client.

“You have referred to two account transfers of $5.75M and $3.75M from OAML to accounts in the name of Zenith Bank Plc (the “Bank”) in April 2014. These transfers relate to the proceeds of the sale of the Challenger 300 aircraft previously acquired and owned by OAML and the proceeds of that sale were remitted to a sole account (and not two as you have incorrectly referenced) in the name of the Bank, held at Citibank.

“Our client understands that these transfers were made to an account of the Bank for onward transmission to Mr. Ovia who had provided OAML with the funds with which to acquire the aircraft.

“To be clear: our client did not benefit from these transfers.”

Documents show that the CBN governor and Mr. Ovia each held 50,000 bearer shares in Vitesse Asset Management, which in turn owns 100 percent of the shares in Oviation Limited.

In Oviation Asset Management Limited, Mr. Emefiele held 49 percent of the shares while his ally, Mr. Ovia, owned the majority 51 percent stake.

According to the records seen by this newspaper, Messrs Emefiele and Ovia, between 2007 and 2012, incorporated the three offshore firms which were then used to acquire luxury jets and move funds around in cyclical manners suggestive of tax avoidance schemes.

The shell companies have no offices or fixed address, staff, computers or telephone lines in the countries their are based. Their major operation seemed to be shuffling of assets among themselves or loaning millions of dollars to each other in a cyclical manner.

In January 2013, Oviation Limited acquired a $33 million Gulfstream 450 jet using a loan from Vitesse Asset Management SA. In 2014, a curious $9.4 million transfer was made by OAML to an account in the name of Zenith Bank plc.

On 14 September 2015, OAML transferred about $3.9 million to UBS AG Account 54648101 claiming to be repaying a loan it took from Oviation Limited.

Two months later, OAML acquired another aircraft, a $51 million G550 jet with registration number M-MNDG and imported it into the Isle of Man where Oviation Limited is domiciled. The island’s aircraft registry shows the company claims it continues to lease the aircraft.

But Mr. Emefiele said he ceased to be a shareholder in the companies, particularly OAML, upon his appointment as CBN governor and took “all the appropriate steps” to transfer his shareholding in OAML, adding that he resigned as a director in May 2014.


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  • Zygote

    “The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, has said that he did not benefit financially from the three companies linked to him and Jim Ovia, the chairman of Zenith Bank, in tax havens……..Mr. Emefiele said he only served as director and shareholder of the companies in response to Mr. Ovia’s request.”

    You think you’re talking to children? You served as a director and shareholder without benefit. Thank you!

    • oyoko

      My brother, it could be true. go and see the working inside Zenith Bank; Jim Ovia is seen as a mini-god that must be obeyed, and the first rule is “obey and don’t question”. it took people like Sanusi to break his mighty hold in Zenith, even then, he still make sure decision are taken from his living room outside the office. This still goes on even now!

      • tundemash

        Not benefiting financially isn’t an excuse. He was an accomplice in a criminal act, Jim Ovia only cheated him out of the deal and that does not excuse the criminal act of Emefiele.

        • oyoko

          some people make their children as directors of their companies, ask the children if they are benefiting from it financially now; do they partake in the yearly profit sharing with their dad. just thinking it could be the same in this narration.

          • Sanssouci

            Emefiele was the MD of Zenith Bank not a minor. It seems you are missing the point

  • FreeNigeria

    another example of the “Thief in Charge.” the fox guarding the hen house. just like the IGP, Like Magu, like SSS boss and like the President, all worthless thieves ruining our beloved country

    • oyoko

      u talk too much! take it easy, these people you malign, there are leaders.

      • FreeNigeria

        They are not leaders, they are rulers, huge difference.

        • oyoko

          because you are not patience to pick one or two things from them. There’s always a good part of every human. pls stop complaining, then you will have a sound mind to pick or two things from your next neighbor that can shape your life.

  • AryLoyds

    Hahaha , when you see an arm robber claiming to be only a mere petty burglar , then you know you have caught a big fish:)
    If you have nothing to hide , why respond through your lawyer , are you anticipating a conviction . Chei we are finished in this country as every official in Nigeria from the president to the gatemen have their hands in one sleaze or the other.

  • persona

    The big questions is did the CBN disclose it with CCB as a company where he has interest?
    We don’t need to know if you benefitted, we want to know if you willingly ensured that Zenith enriched the directors and if you disclosed it with CCB.
    I am yet to see a director of a profitable company that doesn’t receive any benefits. Even CEOs that receive $1 as salary have all their bills paid for.
    Emefiele, if na even na flight on those planes while you were in Zenith, that constitute benefit.
    Now that we know that nearly all elites have skeletons in the cupboard (home and Away), can we admit all region have their elite rogues in power as a revolving door?
    Once we know the enemy of Nigeria is the political and economic elites in place of tribe, religion or party, the better for us all.

  • ACTION MAN in ACTION

    PT, please has PMB, EFCC and CCB seen or heard this? What are their reactions? This is most important to us.

    • Jon

      Check the records: $2.1 billion stolen or missing when he was Petroleum minister in 1977. $1.1 billion stolen or missing when he was chairman of Petroleum Trust Fund in 1997. Now, under his watch, $26 billion stolen or missing under the guise of contract award. Are these not a pattern of bad behavior that should have been punished in Western Civilized Societies? Look again the pattern of ethnic cleansing under his brutal and tyrannical regime.

      • oyoko

        you were not born then, so you speak rash, do more research about what you have written; then you will be better informed. I believe you have gone through the four wall of university, if so, pls read this:

        “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically; intelligence plus character is the goal of true education”

        pls stop been gullible with rubbish you read in social media!

  • Afo

    Imagine this wicked thief who has been left to still our resources. CBN governor my foot. God’s day of judgement for you is coming as you cannot run from God. If this government does not thoroughly investigate the CBN under this Emefiele and prosecute him and all his cohorts, then the fight against corruption is a big joke.

  • Dr Pat Kolawole Awosan

    THe CBN governor Godwin Emefiele, and JIm Obua, chairman of the Zenith bank, PLC. and their accomplices must be fully investigated by the EFCC and all culprits must be brought to book to face severe consequences of their criminal monetary actions. Infact! CBN governor Godwin Emefiele, who was poointed by former president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and his team at the CBN. have been involved in various scandals and they need to be removed from the CBN and replaced with more patriotic-professional leaders in the financial sector and top civil service retired personnel.

    • Jon

      The transaction was tax avoidance which is legal and not tax evasion which is illegal.

      • marcos avelino

        Paid agent you shamelessly defend Emefiele and blame Buhari Ass hole

        • Intrepid

          You this Fulani carcass, make your point, and stop insulting others.

          • marcos avelino

            Fulani this fulani that – small mind you cant think except based on tribal or sectarian basis – shows your primitive aboriginal level

      • Eluba Inas

        May the light shines on you hopefully before you hit the bucket.

      • government

        What i see there is tax sheltering which is not entirely legal.

  • wazobia decomposition !!!!!!

    very soon,these folks would look for lucifer to hide their secrets …………

  • realist

    Insatiable desire for more than they need and deserves, these are the people managing our economy. How would the country not continue wining negative awards- the most corrupt country on earth. Our president who is fighting corruption still in dilemma, not sure of what to do. Like naturally he does not change people. Once he appoint you, you remain there irrespective of the atrocities.

    • Jon

      Check the records: $2.1 billion stolen or missing when he was Petroleum minister in 1977. $1.1 billion stolen or missing when he was chairman of Petroleum Trust Fund in 1997. Now, under his watch, $26 billion stolen or missing under the guise of contract award. Are these not a pattern of bad behavior that should have been punished in Western Civilized Societies? Look again the pattern of ethnic cleansing under his brutal and tyrannical regime.

      • Mizch

        Interesting to note about he years:
        1977
        1997
        2017…..

        • Jon

          Is it too late to arrest Buhari, put him on trial and if convicted, sent to jail as it is done in western democracies?

          • Man_Enough

            Do you really mean to say Buhari, a typographical error, a mischief or a deep rooted hatred? I can’t see where he comes in here.

  • zacchaeus Akinleye

    In better climes Emefiele will take the honorable path and resign; but this is Nigeria where this type of malfeasance is woven into the societal fabric. Shame!!!

    • Mizch

      The fact is: ALL NIGERIANS SHOULD RESIGN. They are all in a FANTASTICALLY CORRUPT COUNTRY.

  • Mr Abel Ighodaro

    After all this allegations, I keep asking myself, after the human race has accumulated so much wealth, riches, will that save him from death? or in another words, have you ever heard of anyone buried with money? our leaders in Nigeria has mortgage our common wealth, how can you steal so much money, and you bring the money to Europe or to America, you leave the place you stole the money to wallop in abject poverty, over here in Europe, it is heaven, whereas, in black Africa is hell.Ordinary light, none. Shame.

    • Jon

      This man is still eating.

      Check the records: $2.1 billion stolen or missing when he was Petroleum minister in 1977. $1.1 billion stolen or missing when he was chairman of Petroleum Trust Fund in 1997. Now, under his watch, $26 billion stolen or missing under the guise of contract award. Are these not a pattern of bad behavior that should have been punished in Western Civilized Societies? Look again the pattern of ethnic cleansing under his brutal and tyrannical regime

  • FirecloudOFGOD

    “The rich live to eat the poor eat to live” so says Proverbs
    “He who eats alone chokes alone”. ~ Arabian Proverb

  • thusspokez

    He said the offshore firms were entirely arranged by Mr. Ovia and that it was the Zenith Bank chairman alone who reaped from the ventures.

    Mr. Emefiele calls Jim Ovia greedy, I am sure that Mr. Ovia will have something to say about Mr. Emefiele name-calling soon.

    Anyway, if Jim Ovia had alone reaped from the ventures, then it would imply that there was something, i.e., company profit to reap. So, is Mr. Emefiele telling supposedly múmú Nigerian audience that as a shareholder and director of the company, “greedy” Jim Ovia didn’t pay him salary or dividend or both? Chineke! This will make the Mr. Ovia a very greedy man indeed.

    • Someone

      you are good. but nothing will happen. ovia understands emefiele’s response.

  • Papa Oghwriodo (Warri)

    MY CHILDREN,

    How are you today? Long time. I was very sick O! Old age was worrying me. Cold and cough, even pain in my leg
    at the same time. I am not yet very okay. I am just managing. I was reading many things inside newspaper how your president Buhari is destroying your future. I was sorry for you. Where is your future? They say Buhari has taken
    15 trillion Naira since he came to office and he has spent everything. What do you see in your own area that cost
    15 trillion Naira? What did Buhari do with 15 trillion Naira in two years? Where is the money?

    Instead of you to become wise children and ask good question, that stealing is too much under Buhari nonsense
    government, you are discussing irrelevant things. Where is free feeding of primary school taking place in your
    own local government, where? Tell me which person you know who has ever told you that Buhari has given him
    5,000 Naira per month free money as a very poor person.

    Did Buhari not promise to do all these things – to give free rice and two chicken leg to each primary school pupil
    in Nigeria? Is that not what his APC party people used to deceive all of you to go and vote like morons? APC even
    put salt inside that if you are a very poor man you will get 5,000 Naira free every month as they do in England,
    but has Buhari done that? Just lies and lies. Instead of you people to come out and shout that you have been
    cheated, scammed and robbed by Buhari and his APC you are jumping into lagoon in Lagos to do suicide,
    everyday. Are you children normal at all? Is suicide the solution to the fraud and lies of Muhamadu Buhari?

    • thusspokez

      MY CHILDREN

      Respect yourself, respect readers and stop being condescending to people you don’t even know.

  • Dr Pat Kolawole Awosan

    Both CBN governor,Godwin Emefiele and Zenith abnk chairman, Jim Ovia, must be fully investigated and drilled by the DSS. and remove from the current official positions at the CBN and Zenith bank PLC. as their involvement in money-laundering must be delt-with fully and they must be made to bear the consequences of their actions.

    • Jon

      This is where the DSS will be doing the drilling:

      Check the records: $2.1 billion stolen or missing when he was Petroleum minister in 1977. $1.1 billion stolen or missing when he was chairman of Petroleum Trust Fund in 1997. Now, under his watch, $26 billion stolen or missing under the guise of contract award. Are these not a pattern of bad behavior that should have been punished in Western Civilized Societies? Look again the pattern of ethnic cleansing under his brutal and tyrannical regime.

      • Kura

        Fake record created by you. It appears you are a failure who’s not bald enough to unmask himself before throwing criticism. Shame

        • Ofuzo

          He’s right though.

    • thusspokez

      EFCC or DSS?

    • Ofuzo

      Has anybody been drilled or investigated by the offshore accounts held by bola tinubu of oando and Senate president saraki in Bermuda.

  • javscong javscong

    I believe Emefiele’s lawyers’ submission on this matter. To the discerning mind, it is not too difficult to see that Emefiele was simply “used” by Jim Ovia. The poor man was at the mercy of Ovia who owns Zenith Bank where Emefiele was managing director. One might argue that he could have resigned. But how many people will have the courage, in Nigeria, to resign from a “plum” position on matters of principle and conscience? We have indicted rogues sitting in the NASS. One of them is even occupying the Presidency of the Senate. Let FIRS go after Jim Ovia and perhaps offer Emefiele “soft landing” if he cooperates. EFCC and ICPC should go after Saraki because unlike Ovia and Emefiele who were in the private sector, Saraki has been a public servant since 2003. He had the offshore account NOT to evade tax BUT to launder stolen public funds.

  • CousinBrother

    When are Nigerians going to be bold and man enough to own up to their failure and/or success. Emefiele should have resigned by now because his hands and his intentions were not clean, at least as at the time the companies were created. But then if his Boss, the one and only certificate forger survives without resigning, then it will be unfair to ask Emefiele to throw in the towel.
    One thing for sure. Nigeria is living up to its reputation of being FANTASTICALLY CORRUPT!