Tuesday, 5 April 2016


The Senate President, Bukola Saraki’s family and a former governor of Delta State, James Ibori, were among some prominent Africans named in a newly discovered secret offshore assets scam released by a German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

The German newspaper on Monday  released the Panama Papers, the biggest leak in the history of data journalism, publishing online 11.5 million documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which showed how world leaders, celebrities, athletes, FIFA officials and criminals hid money using anonymous shell corporations across the world.

The Panamanian law firm, regarded as one of the world’s most secretive companies, according to the documents, has helped clients launder money, dodge sanctions and evade tax.

The data was obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung <http://www.sueddeutsche.de/> and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists with over 100 other media partners in 82 countries.

Newsweek quoting the report disclosed that Ibori was linked to four offshore companies including Stanhope Investments, which he allegedly used to open a Swiss bank account. The account, it added, was used by Ibori to channel funds for the purchase of a $20m private jet.

Ibori was governor between 1999 and 2007. He was convicted in 2012 for fraud totalling nearly £50m  by a London court and is currently serving a 13-year prison sentence in the UK
It was also alleged that about four assets belonging to the Saraki family were tucked away in secret offshore territories.

The assets were allegedly not part of the ones declared by the Senate President nor his wife, Toyin when Saraki became the governor of Kwara State and after he was sworn in as the nation’s number three citizen.

Quoting the report, Premium Times said the undeclared assets by Saraki include Girol Properties Ltd., Sandon Development Limited, and Landfield International Developments Ltd.

Girol Properties, the report stated, was registered on behalf of Toyin by Fonsecca on August 25, 2004, in the British Virgin Island,  a year after her husband, Bukola, became the governor of  Kwara  State.
It added that the company documents showed that Mrs. Saraki “owns 25,000 numbers of shares with a par value of US$ 1,000 each, and was appointed the first and only director of the company.

Mrs. Saraki, according to the online medium, however, in a letter to ICIJ, through her lawyers, denied ever owning any shareholding in Girol Properties.

According to ICIJ, the second undeclared asset, Sandon Development Limited, was registered in Seychelles Island on January 12, 2011 and had Mrs. Saraki and one Babatunde Morakinyo, of 11 Okeme Street, Lagos, as shareholders.

While incorporating that company, documents show, Mrs. Saraki bought a curious service from Mossack Fonseca & Co, the Panamanian firm that helped her to register the firm.

The online medium noted that this was done by Saraki’s wife in order to avoid being identified as the beneficial owner of Sandon, the Senate President’s wife asked Mossack Fonsecca to provide nominee directors for the company.

Nominee directors, according to the report are sometimes used in tax havens to conceal real owners of companies and assets.

It added that after the company was incorporated, Mrs. Saraki used it in July 2011, to allegedly buy the property on Whuttaker Street, Belgravia, London SW1W 8JQ.

Landfield International Developments Ltd., a company registered in the British Virgin Islands on April 8, 2014. It’s registration number is 1819394 while its registered office is 1 Akara Blog., 24 De Castro Street, Wickhams Cay 1, Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Island.

According to Mossack Fonseca, the registered agent of the company, Mrs. Saraki, at least until January 27, 2015, was sole shareholder and beneficial owner of the company which had two nominee directors – Glaisd Alie Limited and NewGombe Limited – both appointed on September 2, 2014. Its agent says Landfield is authorized to issue a maximum of 50,000 no par value shares.

However, Mrs Saraki had denied ownership of these companies in a letter her lawyer wrote to the ICIJ.

But Saraki, while reacting to the report, said the assets allegedly linked to  him actually belonged to the family of his wife which he was not obliged to declare under the law.

He, however, said he had fully complied with the provisions of the law on the declaration of assets by public officers.

He stated  this in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu.

Saraki said he had, in his different asset declarations, included properties owned individually by himself and his wife.

He explained that the property in question formed part of his wife’s family asset.

The statement partly read, “ 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.

“Furthermore, the law only requires a public officer to declare both his own assets and those held by his spouse and his children under 18 years of age. The law does not require a public officer to declare assets held by the spouse’s family.

“It is not expected by the law that a public officer should declare such assets held in the spouse’s family estate. Indeed, the Code of Conduct form does not make provision for declaration of spouse’s family assets.”

Other Africans named in the hidden assets scam included the nephew of embattled South African President Jacob Zuma, Khulubuse Zuma, Kalpana Rawal, the Deputy Chief Justice and Deputy President of Kenya’s Supreme Court.

Some Nigerians and civil right groups who reacted to the fresh scam called for the prosecution of  anybody involved in such an illegal transfer of funds.

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