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Pandora Papers exposes how Oyetola bought for Tinubu £11.95m court-frozen London mansion for £9m from wanted Diezani’s associate

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Pandora Papers, an investigation led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), has in its latest investigation exposed the secret tax haven of the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and Governor Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State, who is a relation of Tinubu.

In previous reports, PREMIUM TIMES had uncovered how some influential Nigerians, including former Governor Peter Obi, Senator Stella Oduah, and Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State hid stolen wealth overseas.

PREMIUM TIMES is the only Nigerian newspaper among 150 news organisations that have direct access to almost 12 million confidential files on the illicit wealth of some of the most powerful persons on earth.

According to the report, the London mansion where Tinubu has been receiving top politicians and high-profile personalities, is embroiled in a multi-billion fraud scandal.

The report said the government of President Muhammadu Buhari had secured a freezing order on the property from a Federal High Court before the previous owner, who is now an international fugitive, sold it at a huge discount to an offshore company owned by Oyetola.

Buhari himself visited Tinubu at the mansion on August 12, 2021.

The expanse 6,975sqft property is situated at 32 Grove End Road, in the wealthy Westminster neighbourhood of London.

According to an advert brochure of the property released by popular United Kingdom real estate company, Savills, the estate is made up of two buildings – a five-bedroom property with a formal reception, a study, a master bedroom with an en suite dressing room, bathroom and a cinema suite with a balcony overlooking the rear garden.

Two of the other four bedrooms in the property are en suite. The second building on the estate is a self-contained two-bedroom flat which is built above the property’s double length garage. The property has a gym, two guest cloakrooms, a carriage driveway that can park up to eight cars, and front and rear gardens, and an electric gate.

“Documents obtained from the UK property register revealed that in July 2013, the property with title number 340992, was bought for £11.95 million by Zavlil Holdings Ltd, a shell company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, a notorious tax haven,” PREMIUM TIMES said in its report.

“Documents revealed that Zavlil Holdings Limited is owned by Kolawole Aluko, an international fugitive wanted by law enforcement agencies in Nigeria and the United States for money laundering.

“Kola Aluko and his associate, Jide Omokore, were indicted in the US and Nigeria for multi-million-dollar fraud and money laundering violations allegedly in collusion with a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.

“In 2016, the Federal Government of Nigeria filed a Mareva injunction at a Federal High Court in Lagos seeking to confiscate a list of properties belonging to Messrs Aluko and Omokore valued at $1.8 billion.

“A Mareva injunction is a Court order which freezes the assets of a defendant pending the outcome of a litigation. In the suit against Messrs Omokore and Aluko, alongside their companies, Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Nigeria Limited and Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited, the Nigerian Government asked the court to grant it seven orders to prevent the accused from disposing the assets. The government alleged they were acquired through fraudulent means.

“The court granted the government all its prayers. In October 2017, an attempt by the defendants to dismiss the Mareva injunction granted on the properties was subsequently dismissed by Oluremi Oguntoyinbo, the trial judge.”

The report said shortly after the court granted the order, Aluko sold the house for £9 million to Aranda Overseas Corporation, an offshore company incorporated in the British Virgins Island by two of Tinubu’s most trusted surrogates – Oyetola, formerly chair of Paragon Group of Companies, and Elusanmi Eludoyin, who succeeded Oyetola at Paragon.

The report stated, “The huge discount at which the property was sold is curious and raised questions whether Aluko desperately needed to sell the property even while a court of law had placed a freeze order on it. The United Kingdom, especially the greater London area, is noted for rapid increase in the value of properties.”

In the application filed by the Nigerian government, the house number of the property on Grove End Road was omitted. However, PREMIUM TIMES’ extensive investigation in Nigeria and the UK, including a detailed analysis of photographs of visits to Tinubu, has shown that the APC leader is staying at the same property the Nigerian government wants forfeited.

“We were also able to determine that it was at the same property that Mr Tinubu welcomed Mr Buhari on August 12 as well as other politicians who visited him.

“Our reporters carefully analysed some of the photos of these visits. Sources close to Mr Tinubu also confirmed that he stays and welcomes guests, including Mr Buhari, at the property.

“Two photos of the visit of Mr Abiodun, the governor of Ogun State, were particularly helpful in making the initial connections,” the report read.

PREMIUM TIMES said it put its findings to spokesperson for Tinubu, Tunde Rahman, but he promised to get back within 24 hours. But he had not done so as of the time the story was published.

Garba Shehu, Presidential spokesman, was also contacted, according to the newspaper, but he promised to respond, just like Rahman did but he reportedly fulfilled to do so.

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Oil price falls to $95 a barrel over plans to restore Iran nuclear deal

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Oil prices plunged on Tuesday amid a considerable progression in restoring Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Brent crude futures, the global oil benchmark, fell $1.3 percent to $95.31 a barrel.  

US West Texas Intermediate, on the other hand, fell $1.2 percent to $89.51. 

The agreement is expected to clear the way for Iran to boost its crude exports in a tight market.

The Iran nuclear agreement, formally known as the joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPOA), is a landmark accord reached between Iran and a group of world powers known as the P5+1 – the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany, in July 2015. 

Under its terms, Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activities and open its facilities to more extensive international inspections in return for the relaxing of economic sanctions. 

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In 2018, Donald Trump, former US president, pulled out of the nuclear agreement but recently efforts were renewed to restore the deal.

On Monday, the European Union put forward a “final” text to revive the deal. 

“What can be negotiated has been negotiated, and it’s now in a final text,” Josep Borrell, the bloc’s foreign policy chief, said in a tweet on Monday after the talks concluded and negotiators headed back to their nations’ capitals for consultations.

“I’m not sure traders are particularly hopeful considering how long it’s taken to get to this point and with there still reportedly being points of contention,” Craig Erlam of brokerage OANDA told Reuters. 

In Nigeria, an embattled oil sector has continued to experience dwindled crude oil production, which steadily dropped in July to an average of 1.08 million barrels per day (bpd). 

Oil theft and diminishing investments are issues the sector has to contend with. 

On Monday, Mele Kyari, group chief executive officer (GCEO), NNPC Limited, said Nigeria loses $1.9 billion monthly to crude oil theft.

The Cable

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FG moves to stop $1.9bn monthly loss to oil theft

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The Federal Government has stepped up moves to halt oil theft, costing Nigeria a monthly loss of $1.9bn, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, has said.

He said Nigeria was not meeting its production quota at the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, due to oil theft.

Sylva, who led a Federal Government delegation on anti-oil theft to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, said the team was in Asaba to seek the support and buy-in of the state government on measures to be adopted to check oil-theft in the country.

He said, “As a country, we cannot sustain this kind of theft perpetually, oil theft has become a national emergency, especially as the nation has not been able to meet its OPEC production quota.

“Our production has dropped drastically to very unsustainable levels. So, we have decided to take the bull by the horn by putting some structures in place and those structures cannot function effectively without the collaboration of the state government.”

On his part, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, who is coordinating the security intervention against oil theft, said security agencies had been dealing with issues of illegal refineries and oil bunkering across the Niger Delta in the last five months.

Irabor advocated the engagement of indigenes and host communities in the fight against the criminal activity.

Mele Kyari, who was also part of the delegation, lamented that Nigeria was currently losing about $2 billion monthly to the activities of oil vandals, with its attendant effect on environmental degradation.

Kyari said, “As a country, we hardly meet our OPEC production quantum of 1.99 million barrels per day with our current production level of 1.4 million barrels per day, which is currently being threatened by the activities of these economic saboteurs.

“This has done extensive damage to the environment and losing 1.9 billion dollars every month is colossal, considering the nature of the global economy at the moment.”

He held that the team needed the support and buy-in of Delta State government “because stopping this oil theft requires the concerted efforts of the Federal, State Governments, oil companies and security agencies”.

In his remarks, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa advocated a review of surveillance contracts on oil facilities to involve host communities in order to check the high rate of oil theft in the country.

Okowa insisted that reviewing oil surveillance contracts based on performance of the contractors and engagement of host communities would ensure effectiveness in securing the nation’s oil and gas assets.

While admitting that the challenge of oil-theft was huge, given the level it had assumed, the governor expressed joy with the steps being taken by the authorities to curb the menace.

He said: “I am glad that we are discussing this hydra-headed issue which impacts directly on our economy and the environment.

“It impacts on the health of the people and sustainability of the environment and I am glad that we are taking some steps because there are so many issues that led us to this.

“We went through situations where gaps where created between host communities and oil companies, and unfortunately criminality set in.

“It has gone so bad but we are doing our best as a state. I am also glad about this collaboration,’’ pointing out that it was often difficult to secure the facilities, especially when the persons given the contracts did not have adequate information on the environment or not have the buy-in of host communities.

“We know that the impact of the nefarious activities on the health of the people cannot be immediately ascertained, and this collaboration is, therefore, very imperative.

“Any measure that will deliberately reduce the level of oil thefts is definitely worth supporting, and as a state government, we pledge our continued support.

“Why investment of the communities is needed is because there are some parts of the creeks that cannot be accessed by the surveillance contractor. Therefore, surveillance contracts should not be such that communities are not involved.

“The surveillance contracts should be tied to performance such that when there are oil thefts you terminate the contract and it is always good that communities are involved because they know the environment better”.

The governor berated oil companies for not keeping faith with their Memorandum of Understanding, MOUs, thereby making the stakeholders to lose confidence in the system.

He explained that when oil companies failed to sign or implement MoUs, “it becomes very difficult for the state government to mediate when there are issues.

“The security agencies must heighten their operations and they need to be resourced to enable them to also increase their level of surveillance and for this to succeed, there must be sincerity on the part of all stakeholders.

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We are not auctioning 7,000 cars – Customs

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The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has dismissed a report that it is planning a special auction of over 7,000 cars.

The Public Relations Officer of Customs, Deputy Comptroller Timi Bomodi, made this known in a statement signed on behalf of the Comptroller General of Customs in Abuja.

He urged Nigerians to always refer to the electronic auction (e-auction) platform (https://app.trade.gov.ng/eauction/) for authentic information concerning auction.

According to him, the e-auction remains the only authentic means of auctioning goods to members of the public.

“Auctions are periodic and advertised in advance on our website to avail the public the opportunity of selecting and bidding for items of their choice.

“It will be recalled that the service deployed the e-auction platform in July 2017 to improve efficiency in revenue generation to the federal government.

“It was also deployed to provide equal opportunities to all Nigerians in the seamless disposal of seized and condemned, and overtime and abandoned cargoes.

“Since its implementation, the e-auction has lived up to expectations by guaranteeing transparency and integrity in the auctioning process,” Bomodi said.

The spokesperson said that the requirements to take part in the e-auction bidding process by interested members of the public were clear.

He said that applicants must process valid Tax Identification Number (TIN), issued by Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), with an active e-mail account.

Bomodi added that the conditions and terms of auction must be carefully considered by an interested person before acceptance.

Bomodi further said an applicant must have an authentic and nationally accepted means of identification.

He explained that those means of identification include international passport, driver’s licence, national identity card or voter card.

He referred the public to the service’s e-auction portal at https://app.trade.gov.ng/eauction/ for further guidelines.

Bomodi used the opportunity to call on owners of vehicles at the various ports to avail themselves of the VIN-Valuation protocols to clear them.

He said the clearance procedure had been simplified, automated and made more user-friendly.

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