#PanamaPapers: Swiss lawyer hired by Nigeria to repatriate Abacha loot denies allegations

Enrico Monfrini, a Swiss attorney hired by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to help track Sani Abacha’s loot stashed away in Switzerland, has dismissed reports that he operated firms in offshore tax havens while being contracted by different countries to repatriate funds from tax havens.

Mr. Monfrini was responding to a PREMIUM TIMES’ story that exposed his connection to over 178 firms in offshore tax havens as contained in the Panama Papers leak.

The private documents, obtained from a Panama-based law firm, Mossack Fonseca, revealed the financial dealings of many high profile personalities around the world.

In an email to PREMIUM TIMES, Mr. Monfrini said he stopped operating firms in offshore tax havens for years, and that he complied with all legal requirements throughout the period he was involved in the business.

“My activity in respect of those companies has stopped for years or even decades,” Mr. Monfrini said. “The activities of financial intermediaries are strictly regulated in Switzerland since 2000.”

Mr. Monfrini said he immediately registered as a financial intermediary in Switzerland after the service was legalised in that country in 2000 until 2014 when he decided to discontinue his interest.

“Since the entry into force of the Swiss anti-money laundering law in 2000, I have been a registered financial intermediary, until the end of 2014,” Mr. Monfrini said.

Mr. Monfrini further stated that offshore firms are designed to disguise the identities of their primary beneficiaries.

“Indeed, so-called offshore companies are regularly used to bring together partners in a joint venture, for estate or tax planning purposes, or, more generally, to protect the privacy of their owners. In many aspects, such entities may play the same role as a trust would, a legal concept with which the common law public may be more acquainted with,” Mr. Monfrini said. “Nearly all Geneva business law firms are registered financial intermediaries or have partners who are.”

Mr. Monfrini, therefore, absolved himself of any wrongdoing, saying he always kept the highest ethical standards in the course of serving as an intermediary for offshore business owners.

“As a registered financial intermediary, I was subjected to regular audits of my files and of the measures I took to prevent the abuse of offshore companies for money laundering purposes, and have never been reprieved,” Mr. Monfrini said. “I have always kept the highest ethical standards and have strictly respected applicable laws and regulations.”

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Samuel Ogundipe is a general assignment reporter at PREMIUM TIMES. At various times, he has covered the Presidency, National Assembly and Defence.

Twitter: @SamuelOgundipe

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