Acting Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko, has been accused by the Pandora Papers of owning properties in the United Kingdom which he acquired by secretly running offshore companies.
Naija News reports that the Pandora Papers was created by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) a nonprofit newsroom and network of journalists centred in Washington, D.C., which exposes a global entanglement of political power and secretive offshore finances and dealings.
The investigation which involved over 600 journalists and over 100 media organisations have already exposed the financial dealings in former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta, the image-maker of Russian President Vladimir Putin and many others.
The Pandora Papers investigation uncovered financial secrets, including those of politicians, former and serving public officials, including Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, former PDP Vice-presidential candidate, Peter Obi, among others.
The leaked records came from 14 offshore services firms from around the world who help clients set up shell companies and design opaque structures to conceal their financial dealings.
According to the report published on Premium Times, Bello-Koko and his wife, Agatha Anne Koko, enlisted the services of Financial Secrecy Seller, Cook Worldwide and Alemán; Cordero; Galindo & Lee (Alcogal), an offshore law firm, to secretly register Coulwood Limited and Marney Limited in the British Virgin Islands. Both companies were registered ON June 19, 2008.
The regulators in the BVI also had his companies under watch for suspected money laundering — a problem Alcogal reportedly helped him tackle with some misinformation provided to the regulators.
Using the two companies, Coulwood Limited and Marney Limited, tucked away offshore, Bello-Koko was said to have anonymously acquired five London properties.
The newspaper said four of the properties were acquired between 2009 and 2012, and that Bello-Koko potentially exploited UK tax loopholes that allowed the owning of UK properties using so-called envelope structure, that is, anonymously owning properties through offshore companies.
”For instance, up to 2012 when George Osborne, former UK finance minister, declared new rules, owning property via an offshore company meant that ownership could be transferred by selling the company’s shares rather than the property itself, and in doing so, no UK property sale tax or capital gains tax will be paid,” it said.
One of the properties was said to have been acquired in May 2017, during his time as the Executive Director for Finance and Administration of the agency.
According to the report, Bello-Koko first used Marney Limited to acquire Flat 2, Liberty Court, 141, Great North Way, London NW4 1PR with an FBN UK mortgage, on October 20, 2009, and, then on July 23, 2012, 62, Manton Road, Enfield, London EN3 6XZ mortgage-free (with cash).
The leaked documents disclosed that both properties cost 275,000 pounds and 280,000 pounds, respectively, when they were acquired, adding that none of these properties was said to have been acquired in his name.
Using the second company, Coulwood Limited, Bello-Koko also reportedly bought three other London properties, namely 62 Corner Mead, Hendon, (NW9 5RD) on November 25, 2008; 37 Redlands Road, Enfield (EN3 5HN) on August 16, 2011; and 14, Faraday House, Aurora Gardens, London (SW11 8ED) on May 3, 2017.
He allegedly paid 205,000 pounds for the 2011 Enfield property, and 235,000 pounds for the 2008 Hendon property which he sold, according to records, in May 2017 for 350,000 pounds.
For the third, the 2017 Aurora Garden property, he allegedly paid 475,000 pounds, being his largest single investment in the UK property market. This was acquired after his NPA appointment.
Analysis of the investments shows that between 2008 and 2012, he had allegedly spent on four London properties a sum of 995,000 pounds, an equivalent of 293 million Naira at the 2015 exchange rate of 294 Naira to a pound.