Lawyers to Toyin Saraki, the wife of the embattled Nigerian Senate president, Bukola Saraki, have said the controversial hidden assets the politician failed to disclose, tucked away in secret offshore tax havens, belong solely to Mrs. Saraki, and not her family estate.
A trove of internal data from the Panama-based offshore-provider, Mossack Fonseca, obtained by the German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) with PREMIUM TIMES and over 100 other media partners in 82 countries, revealed that the properties were part of the assets belonging to the Senate President’s immediate family.
A PREMIUM TIMES investigation on Monday exposed Mr. Saraki as having failed to declare the assets among those filed with the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), as required by Nigerian laws.
However, Mr. Saraki, through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, claimed in a statement Monday night that he fully complied with the provisions of the law.
He said the assets he failed to disclose belonged to the estate of his wife’s family.
“It is public knowledge that Mrs. Saraki comes from a family of independent means and wealth with numerous and varied assets acquired over decades in family estates and investments,” Mr. Olaniyonu said.
But the claims by Mr. Saraki contradicted those by his wife’s lawyers who said the assets in question belonged to no one else but Mrs. Saraki alone.
The London-based law firm of Harbottle & Lewis, who are lawyers to Mrs. Saraki, in clarifying the legal position of the controversial assets, said its client solely own them.
“Our client is the sole shareholder in Sandon Development Limited. There are not and have never been any other shareholders in Sandon Developments Limited,” Harbottle & Lewis stated in a response to enquiries by the ICIJ in a letter dated March 19, 2016.
Similarly, the law firm also confirmed that Mrs. Saraki was the “sole shareholder of Landfield International Developments Limited from incorporation until January 2015,” when she sold her shares to a third party.
Also in one document seen by PREMIUM TIMES, Mrs. Saraki insisted she was the sole director of Girol Properties Limited.
In the document, entitled, “Memorandum of the Sole Director of Girol Properties Limited”, Mrs Saraki wrote on August 25, 2004, “In accordance with the Articles of Association of the Company, I, the undersigned, Mrs. Toyin SARAKI, being its sole director, do hereby set down the following on record:
REGISTERED OFFICE: It was conﬁrmed that the registered ofﬁce of the Company be situated at Akara Bldg, 24 De Castro Street, Wickhams Cay I, Road Town, Tortola, B.V.I.
SEAL: It was resolved that the Common Seal produced to the Meeting (an impression of which is afﬁxed below) be and it is hereby adopted as the
Common Seal of the Company.
CORPORATE DOCUMENTS: It was resolved that the books, records and minutes of the Company may be kept anywhere in the world.
SHARES: It was resolved that the Company be and hereby is authorised to issue, for value received, share certiﬁcates No. l and 2, in the name of Mrs. Toyin SARAKI, for 25000 shares with a par value of US$ 1,00 each
Adopted and signed this 25m day of August, 2004.
Toyin SARAKI, Director
Last September, the CCB slammed false asset declaration charges on Mr. Saraki, accusing him, among other things, of failure to declare his assets in full.
The bureau said Mr. Saraki breached Nigerian law requiring all public office holders to mandatorily declare their assets, those of their wives and children below the age of 18.
The hidden properties, Girol Properties Limited, Sandon Development Limited and Landfield International Developments Limited, which the Senate President failed to declare, were acquired between 2004 and 2011.
Documents showed that Sandon Development Limited was registered in Seychelles Island on January 12, 2011, with Mrs. Saraki and one Babatunde Morakinyo, (her husband’s long-term personal aide and friend) as shareholders.
The documents also showed that Landfield International Developments Limited, with registration number 1819394, was incorporated in the British Virgin Islands on April 8, 2014, with its registered office address as #1 Akara Blog., 24 De Castro Street, Wickhams Cay 1, Road Town, Tortola.
Until January 27, 2015, when Mrs. Saraki sold her shares in the company, Landfield Limited had her as sole shareholder, although with some nominee directors she hired from Mossac Fonseca to ostensibly conceal her ownership of the shell company.