Almost immediately after he was sworn in as the first democratically-elected governor of Bayelsa State in May 1999, the late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha began his long journey of stealing in office by erecting solid offshore structures, including the now infamous company, Solomon & Peters Limited.
Documents exclusively obtained by German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) with PREMIUM TIMES and other media organisations around the world, showed that the paperworks for the registration of Solomon & Peters were initiated in September 1999 in the United Kingdom by lawyers working for the UK branch of the Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca.
Solomon & Peters was eventually incorporated on October 1, 1999 in the British Virgin Island as an “International Business Company”.
As governor of Bayelsa State between May 1999 and December 2005 when he was impeached, Mr. Alamieyeseigha was found to have stashed away several loots, measured in millions of British Pounds and US dollars, in different parts of the world. Solomon & Peters was central in it all.
In 2012, more than £5 million recovered from the funds stolen by him was handed back to the Bayelsa State government by British authorities. The money, handed over to two government officials from Bayelsa State, who came to London for the transfer, was lodged in a Bayelsa State government account with the London branch of First Bank Plc.
The looting journey begins
On September 21, 1999, barely three months after Mr. Alamieyeseigha assumed office as governor, one Sue Bloom from the Mossack Fonseca office in London made a fax transmission to Rosemarie Flax of Mossack Fonseca office in British Virgin Island (BVI) requesting to know if the name Solomon & Peters Limited was available for registration in BVI.
Other Mossack Fonseca personnel involved in the registration was Amanda Coyle, Desiree Chalwell and Bryan Scatliffe.
Solomon & Peters was incorporated with authorised capital of US$50,000 divided into 50,000 shares. Unwilling to take chances by appointing proxies, who might one day undercut him, Mr. Alamieyeseigha appointed himself as both the First Director and Secretary of Solomon & Peters.
He then used the company for years to engage in a looting spree, stashing away funds belonging to his state and acquiring properties in several parts of the world.
His downfall begins
On September 15, 2005, six years after he started stealing public funds, Mr. Alamieyeseigha was arrested at the London Heathrow Airport on suspicion of money laundering.
Mossack Fonseca later resigned as administrator of Solomon & Peters after the governor was arrested. The Panamanian authorities had compelled the law firm to surrender documents about the corrupt politicians and his company.
UK authorities seized $1.5million cash stashed in his London home. They also seized $2.7 million in a bank account at the Royal Bank of Scotland and $15 million in London real estate.
The former governor had a personal account with Barclays Bank Plc opened on January 5, 2005 with balance standing at £203,753.34 as at February 15, 2005.
Mr. Alamieyeseigha also had an account with HSBC, London, but the account was closed in March 2003 with all the money transferred to Santolina Investment Corporation.
He was the sole director of Santolina Investment and sole signatory to the company’s account with National Westminister Bank in London. He had £1.9 million in a Royal Bank of Scotland account belonging to Santolina which he had requested to be transferred to an account in Cyprus.
Meanwhile his properties in UK included a house on Water Gardens in London purchased for £1.75 million in 2003; a house at Mapesbury Road, London purchased for £1.4 million in 2001; a flat in Jubilee Heights, Shoot Uphill, London, purchased for £241,000 in October 1999 weeks after Solomon & Peters was incorporated; and a property on Regent’s Park Road, London, purchased in July 2002 for the sum of £3 million.
In the United States, Alamieyeseigha had two properties, one on 504 Pleasant Drive, King Farm Estate, Maryland, and another on 15859 Aurora Crest Drive Whither, California. He had an account with Bank of America, which balance stood at $1.6 million as at August 2003.
Traced to him in South Africa was a property in V & A Waterfront, Cape Town, valued at $1 million; and Royal Albatross Properties registered in 2005 in Cape Town.
However, in his asset declaration form submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau in 1999, Mr. Alamieyeseigha claimed he had five buildings with a total value of N50 million, 25 plots of land with a total value of N2.5 million, a company called Pesal Nigeria Ltd with a capital of N100,000, four vehicles acquired between 1982 and 1998 with a total value of N10 million, an account with Diamond Bank Plc in Port Harcourt with a balance of N5 million and cash-in-hand of N100,000.
On April 25, 2003, Mr. Alamieyeseigha declared to the Code of Conduct Bureau, after he was elected for a second term in office, that he had assets including six buildings acquired between 1985 and 2002 with a total value of N70 million and annual income of N3.5 million; 27 plots of land acquired between 1985 and 2001 with a total value of N5 million; six cars acquired between 1982 and 2003 with a total value of N14.8 million and a boat acquired in 2002 for N2.5 million.
In September 2005, the former governor was arrested and tried in London for money laundering. He jumped bail and fled to Nigeria.
But on arrival in Nigeria, he was impeached by the Bayelsa House of Assembly, prosecuted and jailed.
After his jail term, he became a political godfather to then President Goodluck Jonathan who granted him presidential pardon, sparking local and international outrage against the regime.
Mr. Alamieyeseigha died on October 10, 2015. He was 63.
Despite looting his state from the beginning to the end of his tenure in office, there were endless eulogies at his funeral.
During his interment, Nigerian dignitaries spoke glowingly about him, with the Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, renaming the Banquet Hall of the state’s Government House as Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha Memorial Hall.
He described the former governor as a man who lived and died well and whose ideals should be supported by all Bayelsans and Ijaw people.
“Let us continue to rally the Ijaws for positive development as he (Alamieyeseigha) came, saw and did his best. We all will miss his wise counsel, doggedness and belief in the Ijaw cause,” Mr. Seriake said.
Former President Jonathan also said, “Alamieyeseigha meant well for Bayelsans; stood very firmly for the Ijaw people and wanted to advance the South-South [cause]. He’s somebody we will collectively miss.”