FINANCIAL CRIME :
• How Atiku wired money and landed in trouble
New FINCEN files published by America’s medium, Buzzfeed I has detailed how Atiku Abubakar, former Nigerian VP, triggered international suspicions around him and his wives.
It all started with a $1,018,500 wire transfer on March 5, 2012 to Habib Bank Limited New York.
The transfer, according to Premium Times, which shared the Buzzfeed report, was flagged in daily monitoring by the bank.
The transfer originated from Guernsey Trust Company Nigeria Limited (GTCN) with the beneficiary being Tanjay Real Estate Brokers, a company which held a Habib Bank Limited Dubai account.
It was the link with Atiku that triggered a suspicious activity report through HBNLY’s transaction monitoring system.
With Mr Atiku as the beneficial owner, GTCN is a trust corporation incorporated in Nigeria in 2003, to hold his 16 per cent stake in Intels Nigeria Limited, Nigeria’s oil and gas logistics giant. This entity has been locked in a business battle with the Nigerian Ports Authority in the past years.
In 1999, Atiku became Nigeria’s Vice-president and, thus, created a blind trust to hold his asset in Intels. It was the blind trust created in 1999 that GTCN was incorporated to manage in 2003, with Gabrielle Volpi. Akintola Kekere-Ekun, a banker, and Uyiekpen Osagie, a lawyer, as its directors and trustees.
“An investigation (of the March 2012 wire transfer) identified GTCN as an alleged shell company that has been used to transfer over USD 10 million via wire transfers through U.S. banks on behalf of the former vice-president of Nigeria, Mr Atiku Abubakar,” HBLNY reported.
“HBLNY’s review of public sources revealed that there have been numerous investigations of Mr Abubakar, as senior Politically Exposed Person (PEP), linking him to corruption allegations, possible Foreign Corrupt Practices Act foreign violations and money laundering.”
In 2010, the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations indicted GTCN alongside other companies linked to Atiku and Mr Volpi.
The committee had investigated how “foreign senior political figures, their relatives, and associates may be circumventing or undermining anti-money laundering (AML) and PEP controls to bring funds that may be the product of foreign corruption into the United States.”
Of the $40 million identified in the US Senate investigation regarding Atiku, $25 million was reportedly wire-transferred into more than 30 U.S. bank accounts opened by Jennifer Douglas, Atiku’s fourth wife.
The wire transfers were primarily by GTCN, LetsGo Ltd. Inc., and Sima Holding Ltd. Both LetsGo and Sima are offshore corporations registered in Panama and the British Virgin Islands, respectively, and controlled by Mr Volpi, according to a letter to the Senate committee by the businessman’s lawyer, Raymond Shepherd of the Washington-based Venable firm.
The transactions identified in the US Senate report were made while Atiku held office as Nigeria’s number two.
The March 5, 2012 suspicious transaction reported by HBNYL was for the purchase of a flat in the “World Trade Centre residences” in Dubai for Rukaiyatu Abubakar, a senior wife of Atiku, through Tanjay, the transaction beneficiary.
The following day, March 6, 2012, as the SAR shows, Deutsche Bank New York raised a compliance question in an information request to HBL Dubai regarding another wire transfer between GTCN and Tanjay in the sum of $200,000 dated January 25, 2012. This was also reported to be for a flat for Rukaiyatu Abubakar – and there was another CHF 741,000 transaction to which GTCN and Tanjay were also parties.
The flagged 2012 wire transfers to Dubai triggered a further investigation, which revealed that GTCN had channelled several other transactions since May 2005, while Atiku was still Nigeria’s vice-president, to an account the company held with Habib Allied International Bank London, (HAIB, London) from multiple accounts held in Switzerland.
These transactions, also routed through HBLNY, were for “personal expenses” of Amina Titi Abubakar, Mr Abubakar’s first wife and Nigeria’s former second lady.
“Based on the negative information associated with parties identified, HBLNY has added Atiku Abubakar (the former vice president of Nigeria), Rukaiyatu Atiku Abubakar, Amina Atiku Abubakar, Massimo Del Celo, Uyiekpen Gboyega Giwa-Osagie, Tanjay, and GTCN to its internal automated real-time suspicious transaction monitoring for further surveillance of potential suspicious activity and this SAR is being filed against all parties listed,” the SAR said.
Mr Osagie is facing trial in Nigeria for a certain $2 million, which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, reportedly suspects might have been budgeted for vote-buying during the 2019 election, which Atiku contested and lost.
Years after Atiku was added to HBLNY’s suspicious activity monitoring system, another SAR filed in 2017 and showing 27 transactions totalling $11,140,357 involving Intels and channelled through Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, DBTCA, were reported as suspicious.
“Negative information was found regarding the partial owner and co-founder of Intels Nigeria Limited, Atiku Abubakar, having been the subject of investigations for allegations of fraud, corruption, and money laundering between 2000 and 2008,” DBTCA reported on the transactions originating from Intels. “This negative media was reported in prior SARs, and no new negative media was discovered.”
The generation of a SAR does not in itself constitute proof of any wrongdoing. However, the fact that SARs were generated in respect of transactions connected to Atiku is revealing.
These transactions have given the public rare insight into how the former Vice-President’s financial affairs are conducted.
*Reported by Premium Times
APPOINTMENT OF WTO CHIEF IN DOUBT AFTER KEY MEETING CANCELLED
APPOINTMENT OF WTO CHIEF IN DOUBT AFTER KEY MEETING CANCELLED
• Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had been expected to be confirmed as leader on Monday
By Richard Partington
The race to find a new leader of the World Trade Organization has been thrown into renewed uncertainty after the cancellation of a key appointment meeting following the US presidential election.
The Geneva-based WTO, which acts as an international arbiter for trading disputes, said it had put off a meeting scheduled for Monday that had been called to appoint Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as its next director general.
Donald Trump’s administration opposed her selection in one of its final acts before the US election, despite the former Nigerian finance minister securing the overwhelming backing of the WTO’s 164 members.
The special meeting of the trade body’s general council had been convened to take a formal decision on the appointment. Officials had been set to put forward Dr Okonjo-Iweala as the candidate most likely to attract a majority, after most countries expressed a preference for her over South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee.
Okonjo-Iweala had moved a step closer to becoming the first woman and the first African to be director of the global trade watchdog after securing backing from the EU, China, Japan and Australia. Liam Fox, the leading Brexiter and former international trade secretary, had run as the UK government’s preferred candidate but failed to win enough support from other countries to reach the last two in the process.
Trade experts said Joe Biden defeating Trump in last week’s election may have led to countries calling for a delay in the WTO leadership race, with the aim of securing the Biden White House’s backing for Okonjo-Iweala after he takes charge in January.
The delay in selecting a new WTO director general comes at a fragile moment for the world economy amid the second wave of Covid-19, and after years of criticism of the WTO and calls for reform from Trump.
The WTO said the meeting would be postponed until further notice, during which time the organisation would continue undertaking consultations with delegations from countries around the world to pick a new leader.
It said in a statement: “For reasons including the health situation and current events, delegations will not be in a position to take a formal decision on 9 November.”
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES LIFTS VISA RESTRICTION ON NIGERIANS, SAYS GOVERNMENT
UNITES ARAB EMIRATES LIFTS VISA RESTRICTION ON NIGERIANS, SAYS GOVERNMENT
BY SAHARAREPORTERS, NEW YORK
The United Arab Emirates has agreed to resume visa issuance to Nigerians, the government has said.
Hadi Sirika, Minister of Aviation, announced this via his Twitter handle on Wednesday.
He disclosed that the move was to allow Emirates Airlines resume operations in Nigeria
He said, “UAE has written to state that they agree to issue visas to Nigerians, consequently decision has been reached to allow Emirates to fly into Nigeria.
“Commencement of the Visa issuance is condition precedent. Please bear with this unusual situation. Many thanks.”
UK RETURNS $100,000 CONFISCATED FROM DUPED NIGERIAN BUSINESSMAN
UK RETURNS $100,000 CONFISCATED FROM DUPED NIGERIAN BUSINESSMAN
Mr Danu had protested the seizure of the money saying it was his legitimate earning and that he declared it with customs.
The United Kingdom has returned the sum of $100,000 confiscated by airport security from Nigerian businessman, Nasiru Danu, after a court gave judgment in his favour in a confiscation suit.
Court documents and banking details seen by this newspaper showed that the money was paid with interest that accrued in the last one year as ordered by a magistrate court on September 7.
Mr Danu was intercepted by officials of the United Kingdom Border Force and Immigration officials on arrival at the London airport on September 13, 2019 after his then newly-acquired Maltese passport with which he travelled there turned out to be fake.
The businessman, PREMIUM TIMES gathered, was duped of $35,000 by a ‘travel agency’ which offered to help him obtain a Maltese passport. Unknown to him the passport delivered to him by the agency was fake.
On returning to Nigeria, Mr Danu petitioned the State Security Service (SSS) over the passport fraud and his resultant arrest and deportation from the UK.
The SSS later referred the case to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which is now pressing charges against one Rabbi Okpara.
PREMIUM TIMES had in December reported how Ms Okpara was docked by the EFCC before an FCT High Court for allegedly defrauding Mr Danu and other unsuspecting Nigerians.
Ms Okpara is the owner of Green Valley Concept Limited, a purported travel agency.
EFCC investigators said Ms Okpara used her travel agency to lure unsuspecting members of the public to buy into a sham travel/residency arrangement in Malta.
The EFCC said Ms Okpara in her statement to the agency admitted to liaising with a third party, one Mr Ugbaja, in obtaining these fake travel document for her clients.
Count one of the charges reads: “That you Rabbi Okpara and Jude Ugbaja(at large) sometime in August 2019, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court conspired between yourselves to do an illegal act, to wit; causing to be used as genuine forged documents, thereby committed an offence contrary to section 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, CAP, MI7 laws of Federation Nigeria, 2004 and punishable under the same act.”
Count two reads: “That you Rabbi Okpara, Jude Ugbaja ( at large), Green Valley Concept Ltd and Palmary Travels and Tours Ltd, sometimes in August 2019 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this honourable court forged a maltase passport with the name Nasiru Haladu Danu with number 9647443 dated 27 April/AVR 2018 with intent that it be used as genuine; thereby committed an offence contrary to 320(a) of the Penal Code, Law of the Federation 1990 and punishable under section 322 of the same law.”
Seized cash returned
Aside deporting Mr Danu to Nigeria on his arrest at the airport in September, the UK authorities also took possession of $100,000 found on the businessman.
The businessman had protested the seizure of the money saying it was his legitimate earning and that he declared it appropriately with customs authorities in Nigeria before travelling with it to the UK.
Mr Danu also explained that he travelled with that amount of cash because his credit card had failed him repeatedly, leaving him stranded on a number of occasions.
But despite his explanations, the UK authorities seized the cash and approached a court for confiscation hearing.
However, the legal team for Mr Danu challenged the UK Border agency’s move to permanently confiscate the money. They succeeded.
“The court found that the security officials were wrong to seize the money as the money was from legitimate income which was not intended for an unlawful purpose and should therefore be returned to the owners,” said Mr Danu’s lawyer, Femi Joshua.
Mr Danu’s Nigerian Bank account was credited with the money with interest in two tranches of $50,471 on September 23, according to documents seen by PREMIUM TIMES.
When contacted Tuesday, Mr Danu said he was pleased that the court noted that he was a victim of crime by a syndicate which swindled him and sold him a fake passport.
“The court saw that I am a legitimate and honest businessman and that the cash found on me were legitimately earned and properly declared,” Mr Danu said.