Anti-money laundering authorities in the United States have been keeping tabs on the operations of a top Nigerian oil company, Oando PLC, because of the company’s alleged ties with convicted former governor of Delta State, James Ibori.
The revelation is contained in leaked documents, otherwise known as #FinCEN Files, which are reports of suspicious transactions filed by banks with the U.S Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).
#FinCEN Files, a new global investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, BuzzFeed and 108 media partners across the world, including PREMIUM TIMES, are a large volume of confidential financial reports relating to the transaction activities of world leaders, terrorists, drug dealers and money launderers.
The investigation involved 16-month collaborative work involving more than 400 journalists, including those from PREMIUM TIMES, in 88 countries.
The files included a large number of suspicious-activity reports, SARs, filed by banks and other financial institutions to the US Government as required by the Bank Secrecy Act., with the total amount in suspicious transactions reported being $2 trillion ($2,099584,477,415.49). PREMIUM TIMES is the only Nigerian publications with access to the documents.
In the case of Oando, it was the alleged link with Mr Ibori that triggered the flagging of the company’s transactions as suspicious.
Mr Ibori pleaded guilty to fraud and money-laundering charges in 2012 in a London court. He was sentenced to 13 years in jail and has since been released.
He is believed to have laundered more than N12.5 billion (£50 million), stolen from the treasury of Delta State, a largely rich but impoverished Nigerian oil-rich state, during his tenure as governor.
Oando, which is into oil and gas, is listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
Oando has repeatedly claimed that Mr Ibori’s stake in the company is “insignificant”.
But British prosecutors, pushing for the confiscation of Mr Ibori’s assets, said the former governor told a Swiss private bank in 2004 that he owns up to 30 per cent of Oando.
In May 2015, three years after Mr Ibori’s conviction, Deutsche Bank, a multinational correspondent bank to Oando’s Nigerian bankers, made discreet filings on Oando to the U.S anti-money laundering agency, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).
FinCEN, according to the filings, which was made under Suspicious Activities Report (SAR), was notified of Oando’s involvement in an international wire transfer of over $31million in 64 transactions between January and February 2015.
The filings mentioned Nigerian companies and banks, and their foreign counterparts in Africa, America, and Europe that were involved in the transactions. They included Stanbic Bank Nigeria Ltd, First Bank of Nigeria PLC, Access Bank Plc, and First City Monument Bank.
Aside from Oando, some of the other companies in Nigeria that were involved in the transactions are Badagry Port Development Limited (also owned by Wale Tinubu, the group managing director of Oando) Ebony Oil And Gas Ltd (a Ghanaian company trading in crude oil and refined petroleum products), Gaslink Nigeria Ltd (a company partly owned by Wale Tinubu’s Oando Gas & Power Limited), Intels Nig Ltd (owned by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Gabriele Volpi and a few others), and Liberty Trust Ltd (a company also owned by Wale Tinubu).
“From 02/13/2015 to 03/27/2015, Oando PLC received three (3) transactions, totalling $6,008,855 from a single originator, Badagry Port Development Limited,” Deutsche Bank informed FinCEN.
“From 02/09/2015 to 04/08/2015, Oando PLC sent six (6) transactions, totalling $5,143,980 to a single beneficiary, Springcreek (Capital) Limited.
“From 02/11/2015 to 03/18/2015, Oando PLC sent three (3) transactions, totalling $4,400,000 to a single beneficiary, Digital Convergence Limited.
“Twenty-five (25) transactions were conducted in large round dollar amounts, ranging from $4,000 to $3,000,000.
“No information regarding the commercial purpose of these transactions was found in the transaction detail or through independent research,” Deutsche Bank added in the filings.
Springcreek (Capital) Limited is owned by Akinwale Akinbola, a credit Portfolio analyst at Ecobank, and Olatilewa Akinbola, the CEO of Kiddies Creek Limited, which both of them also co-owned.
Digital Convergence Limited is a Lagos-based company owned by a certain Olasubomi Odunsi and his immediate family members.
The reasons for the fund transfers are unknown. Deutsche Bank said it reported the transactions to the U.S authorities because of Mr Ibori’s ties with Oando.
Stanbic Bank Nigeria, however, in its response to an investigative inquiry from Deutsche Bank, said the identified Oando’s transactions were not “suspicious” in any way.
Stanbic Bank said it was untrue and unproven that the convicted former governor, Mr Ibori hid some of his assets in Oando. The bank said Oando “specifically and categorically” denied the allegation.
The bank said, “In 2002, a series of foreign exchange transactions occurred between Ocean and Oil Services Limited and a third party.
“Funds were transferred from the Ocean & Oil entity’s bank accounts into an account named Servette at PKB Bank. We understand that the Bank later transferred the funds from the Servette account to another account in the name of Stanhope.
“At the time the transaction occurred, we understand and believe that Ocean & Oil Services had no way of determining that James Ibori was a party to the transaction or that the Servette account was for the benefit of James Ibori. The Servette account was later discovered to be linked to James Ibori. At the date of the transactions in 2002, Ocean & Oil Services Limited had not yet been acquired by the Oando Group.”
In a 2013 statement after the Metropolitan Police linked it with Mr Ibori, Oando defended itself, saying Mr Ibori’s shareholding of the Company at the time was approximately 400 shares.
“We also presented evidence that the transfers of money to Ocean and Oil Services Ltd to an Ibori controlled company was as a result of legitimate foreign exchange transactions and without any knowledge at the time that the Company was related to Ibori,” the company said. “Furthermore, there was no evidence of any transfer from Oando PLC to the Ibori controlled company.”