President Muhammadu Buhari had paid a goodwill visit to ally and the national leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu at his London Villa.
What many have come to see as an innocent visit by the country’s commander in chief may have deeper consequences on this present administration’s fight against corruption.
Tinubu’s London home which has seen a steady flow of ‘sympathisers’ and politicians, has been a Mecca of some sort.
Apart from Mr Buhari, other politicians who have visited Tinubu at the mansion are the governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu; a former governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun; Amosun’s successor, Dapo Abiodun; the governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi; the governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu; members of the Lagos State House of Assembly; the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; a contingent from Kano State led by Governor Abdullahi Ganduje; top fuji musician; Wasiu Ayinde, among other dignitaries.
What most Nigerian did not know was that the property was linked to one of the biggest corruption scandals in the country since Buhari became president in 2015.
According to Premium Times, the mansion where Tinubu hosted Buhari is not only embroiled in a multi-billion fraud scandal, the Buhari government had actually 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 the Governor of Osun State, Gboyega Oyetola, a relative of Tinubu.
Naija News reports that this revelation is part of reports released by the ‘Pandora Papers’, 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, APC chieftain, Senator Senator Stella Oduah, 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
The property which Tinubu has now taken as his abode is situated at 32 Grove End Road, in the wealthy Westminster neighbourhood of London.
The Pandora Papers report read:
The 32 Grove End Road villa exudes stunning opulence. 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 comes with a gym, two guest cloakrooms, a carriage driveway that can park up to eight cars, and front and rear gardens, and an electric gate.
Bought from a fugitive at a £8 million discount
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.
Further documents obtained by Premium Times 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 U.S. 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.
In the suit against 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 third prayer the government made to the court was to grant it an order restraining the accused “from giving any instruction, demanding, accepting, receiving payments and/or transacting, transferring, mortgaging or howsoever dealing in any manner with assets of the Defendants in both houses and land in Abuja and Lagos and others located outside Nigeria.”
The government then listed 17 properties in Abuja, Lagos, the U.S., Canada, Dubai, Switzerland, and the UK.
Among the listed properties was “Grove End Road, London”.
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.
But just around the time (on October 18, 2017) the court dismissed the defendant’s attempt to dismiss the injunction, documents obtained from the U.K. property register revealed that Mr 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 – Adegboyega Oyetola, formerly chair of Paragon Group of Companies and incumbent governor of Osun State and Elusanmi Eludoyin, Oyetola’s successor at Paragon.
The huge discount at which the property was sold is curious and raised questions of whether Mr 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.
According to calculation of the likely value, the property should be worth approximately 17 million pounds. Thus, Mr Aluko sold the property at a discount of £8,000,000.