#PanamaPapers: Group seeks details of investigation of Saraki, Mark, others

Senate President Bukola Saraki

The Civil Society Network Against Corruption, CSNAC, has sent a Freedom of Information, FOI, request to the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, for an update on the bureau’s investigations of allegations of corruption against some public office holders in Nigeria.

In a statement signed by its chairman, Olanrewaju Suraj, CSNAC said the request was in respect of revelations in the #Panama Papers published by PREMIUM TIMES, which raised grave allegations of dubious wealth by past and present leaders of Nigeria.

PREMIUM TIMES had reported its findings from a series of investigations, following massive leak of files belonging to Mossack Fonseca, a law firm in Panama, Central America.

“In line with the revelations of the present and past Nigerian officials exposed in the Panama Papers scandal of illegally operating secret companies in tax havens, you, the Chairman of Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, Mr. Sam Saba, confirmed the Presidency’s directive, forwarding names of certain persons mentioned in the Panama Papers leak to your agency for necessary investigation.

“Premium Times had revealed Senate President, Bukola Saraki, having four assets listed in the secret offshore accounts carrying his name, but the embattled senate president had allegedly failed to disclose them in his assets declaration forms, in violation of Nigeria’s Code of Conduct law. One of the companies in his wife’s name, Mrs. Toyin Saraki, in Seychelles Island is Sandon Development Limited, a vehicle used in acquiring a property on 8 Whittaker Street, Belgravia, London, in 2012.

“Another shareholder listed for that company is Babatunde Morakinyo, a long-term personal aide and friend of Mr. Saraki. Premium Times confirmed that the assets actually belong to Mr. Saraki, and not his wife, as Mrs. Saraki and Mr. Morakinyo were mere fronts and nominee directors holding assets in trust for the Senate President.

“Similarly, it was disclosed how former Senate President, David Mark, has links with eight offshore companies in British Virgin Island as shown by the leaked database of Mossack Fonseca. The database showed Mr. Mark as one of Nigeria’s most extensive users of offshore shell companies, while serving as a public official. These companies includes Sikera Overseas S.A, Colsan Enterprises Limited, Goldwin Transworld Limited, Hartland Estates Limited, Marlin Holdings Limited, Medley Holdings Limited, Quetta Properties Limited, and Centenary Holdings Limited,” CSNAC said in its statement.

The Panama Papers also revealed Mr. Mark had to send documents across to Mossack Fonseca to prove that he was clean.

CSNAC cited further revelations from the publication of PREMIUM TIMES’ findings in the Panama Papers and requested details of the investigation plans of the bureau.

“Also, in the same view, the former Group Managing Director of NNPC, Funso Kupolokun, incorporated secret company in tax haven to partly own Ghana’s top hotel. Details obtained by Premium Times from the leaked Mossac Fonseca’s database allegedly showed Mr. Kupolokun as director of Gold Coast Resorts from August 11, 2008 and personally held 17.23 per cent shares in the company.

“Correspondence between Mossac Fonseca and a London-based law firm representing Mr. Kupolokun, Kennedys Law LLP, revealed that the former aide to ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo, authorized the transfer of his shares in Gold Coast to Blue Chapel, a company registered in Mauritius (another tax haven), in January 2013. It was revealed that at a point, Mossac Fonseca raised concern about Mr. Kupolokun, after its compliance unit identified press reports accusing the former NNPC chief of corruption but in his response, on September 7, 2014, Mr. Kupolokun wrote, “Thanks so much, I now know what is being referred to.”

“Interestingly, it was also disclosed how the former Group Managing Director NNPC, Mr Abubakar Yar’Adua, operated secret account to buy posh property while in office. Additional documents scooped from the Mossack Fonseca files exposed how Mr. Yar’Adua utilized his Hydrocarbon Assets Investments Limited to secure a loan from Dexia Private Bank Limited in Jersey which he allegedly used to purchase a property worth £890,000 in London. Dexia Private Jersey Limited, Hydrocarbon Assets Investment Limited and Mr. Yar’Adua signed the loan agreement on November 18, 2008 and was effected on December 2, 2008.

“Similarly, it was disclosed, while holding public office, Andy Uba (senator, Anambra state) illegally holds asset in tax haven. It was revealed that Mr. Uba’s offshore structure in the Seychelles was erected with the help of two women, Marta Edghill and Vianca Scott, believed to be his fronts. Minutes of the first meeting of the board of directors of Wentworth Properties Ltd showed that the said meeting was held on November 3, 2004. The minutes said the two women constituted the totality of the board of directors. Marta Edghill and Vianca Scott elected themselves President and Secretary of the company respectively.”

CSNAC said its request was based on sections (1), (2) and (3) of the FOI Act, adding that information provided by the CCB would enhance the ongoing war against corruption.

“In the light of the above, CSNAC in pursuant to Sections 1, 2 & 3 of the Freedom of Information Act 2011 is requesting for a comprehensive information on status of CCB’s promised investigation on the aforementioned matter. This information will enable us carry out our mandate of fighting corruption by naming and shaming public office holders involved in corrupt practice”.

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