Most purchases happened during former President Goodluck Ebele-Jonathan’s tenure….
About 137 Nigerians secretly bought houses worth millions of pounds in the United Kingdom in the last thirty years.
According to a new report/investigation by Finance Uncovered and Premium Times, there are indication that there was a mushrooming of UK property purchases by Nigerian-owned offshore companies.
According to the report, since 1991 Nigerians especially politicians and business figures made property purchases through offshore or shell companies.
Premium Times, which co-authored the report, writes that at least 233 houses and apartments were bought by 166 such companies with a combined worth of £350 million and most of the purchases happened during the adminstration of former Nigeria president, Goodluck Jonathan was Nigeria’s President.
Read ecerpts of the report below;
‘The property owners include Nigeria’s former aviation minister Stella Oduah. Now 59, she served under ex-President Goodluck Jonathan from 2011 until 2014 when she resigned amid serious corruption allegations, which she has denied.
”Ms Oduah was never charged on those allegations. But she has since been indicted on separate money laundering offences relating to alleged fraud. Ms Oduah, who remains a senator, has always denied accusations of wrongdoing.
“…Our investigation suggests she secretly bought London property. We have seen a confidential US suspicious activity report by Deutsche Bank. It suggested that a company owned by Ms Oduah made a suspicious payment of almost $72,000 to a London property broker in 2012.’
‘A search of Land Registry records then showed that one month later another company, registered in Seychelles paid £5.3 million for a London townhouse.
The Seychelles company shared a name with another one owned by the Oduah family.’
Another prominent figure whose London property appears in the data is Mohammed Bello-Koko, 52, the finance director of the powerful Nigerian Ports Authority, and reportedly, also, its acting managing director.
For much of his career, he worked in banking, working for 10 years at Zenith Bank, where he rose to be a deputy general manager.
According to the Pandora Papers, Bello-Koko and his wife were the anonymous owners behind two companies incorporated in the BVI.
Searches at the Land Registry showed that these companies bought five London properties between 2009 and 2017, for a combined total of almost £1.5 million. One of the properties has since been sold.
Elsewhere in the Pandora Papers, a 2017 letter from law enforcement officials in the BVI requested information about these BVI companies — together with seven other companies — in relation to an investigation into financial offences, including money laundering.
Alemán, Cordero, Galindo & Lee (Alcogal), the BVI registered agent for the companies, wrote back saying: “To the best of our knowledge, these companies do not have any assets or bank accounts held in their name.”
Asked why it had not mentioned the UK properties, Alcogal explained that it was only obliged to provide law enforcement officials with the information that it holds in its records.
Lanre Suraju, chair of Human and Environmental Development Agenda (Heda Resources Centre), a Nigerian anti-corruption campaign group said: “For a country that is incapable of providing electricity and decent roads without external financial support, and which depends on a combination of foreign loans and aid to supply potable water and public education, it is galling to discover such a humongous outflow of Nigeria capital to London, all concealed via the use of offshore companies. “
For more than five years, under three different Conservative Party prime ministers, the British government has been promising to make the names of offshore property owners public as part of wider efforts to end anonymous ownership. But it has failed to do so.
Rachel Davies Teka, head of advocacy at Transparency International, said: “This investigation shows it remains all too easy for those with suspicious wealth to acquire property in the UK whilst hiding their identities using opaque offshore companies. Not only does this harm the countries where suspect funds are siphoned from, but it damages Britain’s reputation as a hub for global commerce.”