PRODECO International Limited, a company in which former Nigeria’s vice president, Atiku Abubakar, has an interest, was flagged for suspicious transactions totalling $2.3 million in 2011, suspicious activities report filed with the United States’ Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), have shown.
FinCEN files, a new investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, BuzzFeed and 108 media partners across the world, including PREMIUM TIMES, are a large volume of leaked confidential financial reports relating to the transaction activities of world leaders, terrorists, drug dealers and money launderers.
The files include 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).
In the data reviewed by PREMIUM TIMES, it is reported that Prodeco made a total of five wire-transfer transactions, totalling $2,317,793.68 between November 26, 2010, and January 18, 2011. Atiku had in September 2017 disclosed his ownership of Prodeco.
The company, affiliated with Intels Nigeria Limited, Nigeria’s largest logistics company co-founded by Atiku and Italian Gabrielle Volpi, operates within the oil and gas industry and is headquartered in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
The flagged funds were wired by Prodeco from an account at Standard Chartered Bank, United Kingdom. They were flagged by the Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas (DBTCA) based in New York, United States.
The beneficiary banks involved in the transactions were a Lagos branch of Bank PHB Plc, now known as Keystone Bank Limited; Deutsche bank AG, a German multinational investment bank; Ecobank Nigeria Plc; and Skye Bank Plc, now known as Polaris Bank.
The recipients of the funds were identified as Coltyn Enterprises Nigeria Ltd, Drake and Sean Limited, Mbonny Technical Services Limited, Melchers Trading Gmbh, and Unicorn Integrated Marine.
Further analysis of the activities identified an unusual variation in transaction amounts ranging from $11,345.51 to $1,300,000, the filing said.
“On 11/26/2010, Prodeco International Limited sent one (1) payment in the amount of $1,300,000 to Unicorn Integrated Marine Engineering Ltd. On 12/15/2010, Prodeco International Limited sent one (1) payment in the amount of $769,372.53 to Drake and Sean Limited. On 12/14/2010, Prodeco International Limited sent one (1) payment in the amount of $112,557.75 to Mbonny Technical Services Limited,” the SAR said.
The SAR said the purpose of the transactions could not be ascertained because they contained “sketchy or incoherent details”.
The address provided for some of the companies did not match the transaction details. Hence, DBTCA was unable to determine whether the listed entities are involved in the transactions, according to the SAR.
For instance, it said that the address for Unicorn Integrated Marine Engineering Ltd was not listed in the transaction details.
“No information was found for Unicorn Integrated Marine Engineering Ltd. Also, the address for Drake and Sean Limited was not listed in the transaction details. The address for Mbonny Technical Services Limited was not listed in the transaction details.”
According to the SAR, when DBTCA asked one of the banks, Oceanic Bank International, Nigeria, for information regarding the business purpose of one of the transactions in the amount of $1,300,000 involving its customer Unicorn and PRODECO, it claimed it was for Sublease of rights and interests for future rent over 20 hectares of land at Onne Oil & Gas Free Zone. PREMIUM TIMES is unable to determine if Unicorn has such a property in Onne.
While PREMIUM TIMES can confirm that all the beneficiary firms are registered in Nigeria, only Mbonny Technical Services has an online presence explaining the services they provide to their clients.
According to its website, Mbonny Technical Services provides logistics services. It wrote on its website that it provided staff bus transportation and haulage of materials to PRODECO from 2004 to date. Atiku’s firm may have paid for those services through the transfer.
Meanwhile, all efforts made by this newspaper to reach the firm to ask if it is aware of the 2011 transactions did not yield results. No one responded to telephone calls put across to the firm via its official telephone numbers for three days.
For the other three companies; Cotlyn Enterprise, Unicorn Integrated Marine Engineering Limited and Drake and Sean Ltd; this paper could not ascertain the type of services they provide.
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted one of those listed as Unicorn’s director, Ibrahim Abdullahi Maimaje, on Sunday, he confirmed being a director of the firm and told our reporter to call back on Monday.
But when the reporter called back on Monday, he retracted his earlier comment, denying any affiliation with the engineering company. “I was sleeping when you called on Sunday. That is why,” he responded when confronted with details of the previous conversation.
Cotlyn Enterprise, and Drake and Drake and Sean Limited were registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in 2001 and 2009 respectively. The two are owned by members of two families.
The directors of Drake and Sean limited are Didi Ndiomu and Sean Ndiomu, who this newspaper suspects are family members.
Didi Ndiomu is the Chairman of Nigerian Machine Tools Limited, a company that manufactures and distributes engineering machines and spare parts. The company is headquartered in Lagos, with its factory being in Osogbo, the Osun State capital.
When the company was contacted via a telephone number listed on its website, the respondent, who is based in Osun State, promised to reach out to the officer in charge of the factory after the reason for calling was disclosed.
He, however, said the official could not confirm or deny if Mr Ndiomu is a director at Drake and Sean. He also refused to disclose the direct contact details for Mr Ndiomu.
On the other hand, Cotlyn Enterprise listed Collins Ola Ehimiaghe and Tina Ehimiaghe as directors. In its official response sent to PREMIUM TIMES (weeks after this publication), the management of Cotlyn Enterprises said it was contracted for the transportation of cement from production factories located in Port Harcourt to Prodeco construction sites at the Federal Ocean Terminal (FOT), Onne.
“FOT Onne exists in an Oil & Gas Free Trade Zone hence the primary reason the services offered by Coltyn Enterprises were paid for in dollars to the company’s account at Bank PHB now known as Keystone Bank PLC.”
The haulage company added that it was equally contracted to transport cement to various other project sites for companies in the Construction Industry such as RCC, Gilmor Constructions & Engineering and Eternit Limited Sapele.
“Overall Coltyn moved an average of 20,000 tonnes of cement each year.”
Atiku did no Wrong — Spokesperson
When contacted, a spokesperson for the former Atiku, Paul Ibe, said PRODECO, as a going concern, is engaged in legitimate businesses.
“The alleged transfer was a legitimate transaction,” he said.
He said in response to our reporter’s inquiry that it was a mere coincidence that the transfers took place in the build-up to the 2011 presidential election.
“A decade after the so-called transaction and purported flagging, has there been any case of illegality established? None so far,” Mr Ibe said.
He strongly denied insinuations that the funds “were wired for election purposes”.
PREMIUM TIMES had previously reported how Atiku was placed under international banking surveillance by the US authorities due to past corruption and money laundering investigations in Nigeria and the US.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This post was updated on November 29, 2020, to reflect the comment of Coltyn Enterprise which was sent to us several weeks after our initial publication.
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