#PanamaPapers: How Tinubu Operated 12 Shell Companies in Tax Havens
Last October, Nigeria’s biggest indigenous oil and gas company, Oando Plc, made history for the wrong reason when it announced a loss of N184 billion in the 2014 financial year.
The loss was the biggest ever recorded by any Nigerian company.
While its shareholders bore the brunt of the bleak financial year, the company’s Group Chief Executive, Wale Tinubu, and his deputy, Omamofe Boyo, might be doing just fine as they had for years incorporated and operated a cluster of shell companies in notorious offshore jurisdictions.
Tinubu seems to be making so good a return from his shell companies that in 2008, he agreed to pay a front as much as $20,000 monthly to manage all of his offshore transactions.
Details of the offshore assets of the two top bosses at Oando Plc were among the revelations contained in the leaked massive internal data belonging to Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca.
The revelations are products of an investigation, spanning over a year by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and more than 100 other global news organisations across the world.
Documents from the huge database linked Tinubu to at least 12 shell companies.
According to an online news portal, Premium Times, Tinubu, documents showed, secured the services of Mossack Fonseca to help him incorporate the companies in Seychelles, one of the fastest growing offshore jurisdictions in the world and notorious tax haven, the British Virgin Islands (BVI).
The documents also reveal that Mossack Fonseca coordinated the operation through its offices in Geneva, the British Virgin Islands and Panama.
The documents show that Tinubu is a director in the following companies incorporated in Seychelles and the BVI:
Sigma Technology Inc.; Techventure Inc.
Anglesey Management SA; Caine Trading Corp; Keligh Engineering Corp
Hud Trading Corps; Meridian Procurement International Services Ltd; Lynx Shipping Ltd; Equinox Shipping Limited; Everglade Oil Inc.; Framlingham Limited; Triton Trading Limited
Investigation revealed that Tinubu is either the sole director of most of the companies or has unlimited powers to make decisions.
For instance, files from the data revealed that on November 26, 2009, after a meeting of the “board of directors” of one of his shell companies, Keligh Engineering Corp, Tinubu was granted a general power of attorney as the sole signatory of the company.
The ‘board meeting’ where this decision was made was attended by three nominee directors, – Yvette Rogers (Chairman), Jaqueline Alexander (secretary), Verna de Nelson, who are actually employees of Mossack Fonseca.
Nominee directors are appointees used in offshore tax havens to hide true owners of shell companies.
Rogers had also served as nominee director in Stanhope Investment limited, Seychelles, one of the shell companies used by the imprisoned former Governor of Delta State, James Ibori, to steal the resources of his oil-rich state.
As part of its #PanamaPapers series, it was revealed how Mossack Fonseca helped Ibori, who is serving a 13-year jail term in the United Kingdom for money laundering, hide funds stolen from Delta State treasury through a web of offshore companies.
In May 2007, Just like Ibori, the Oando boss also secured the services of Swiss asset management firm, Clamorgan SA, to help him incorporate Techventure Inc., Anglesey Management SA, Caine Trading Corp and Keligh Engineering in Seychelles while appointing Mossack Fonseca Geneva as registered agent and administrator for the shell companies.
On May 2, 2007, Sebastien Thierry of Clamorgan S.A, who had acted as signatory for one of Ibori’s shell companies, wrote a letter to Sonia Scampa of Mossack Fonseca, thanking her for verifying and assisting in registering the companies, as well as granting Tinubu the power of attorney.
“Following my mail yesterday and our conversation today, I reiterated the confirmation sent yesterday morning taken the following companies – Anglesey Management SA, Caine Trading Corp., KLeigh Engineering Corp. Thank you for making a power of attorney for Mr. Wale Tinubu for three companies,” he wrote in French.
It remains unclear why Tinubu hired the same offshore consultants used by Ibori to run his offshore companies. But in September 2013, British prosecutors told a court that Ibori confessed to owning “significant” shares in Oando Plc.
According to crown prosecutor, Sasha Wass, a Queen’s Counsel, while opening an account at Swiss bank, PKB, through a shell company called Stanhope Investment, Ibori told the bank he owned 30 per cent of Oando.
Oando had denied that Ibori’s wealth was hidden in the company. The company at the time circulated a statement claiming that Ibori only had 443 shares of the company’s 6.8 billion ordinary shares.
The documents also revealed that apart from relying on nominee directors appointed by Mossack Fonseca to hide his ownership of shell companies in tax havens, Tinubu also hired a paid front who acted on his behalf in some of the offshore companies.
In a December 10, 2008, email to Marie-Ange (an employee of Mossack Fonseca in Geneva), Sebastien Clamorgan of Clamorgan SA revealed that Tinubu hired a front, Patrick Bastin, to act on his behalf in his offshore companies.
According to the email, Bastin was handsomely rewarded for this role. He was paid a salary of $10,000 monthly and given a corporate visa card which allowed him to spend up to $10,000 monthly.
Bastin was paid from Everglade Oil Inc’s account with a private bank in Beirut, Lebanon.
“It is agreed that M. Patrick Bastin will be acting as a director for certain of Mr J.A. Tinubu companies and in this capacity will be managing all upcoming administrative commercial and ﬁnancial tasks, inclusive the relationship with the several banks the companies may have bank accounts with,” the email read.
“For this task M. Patrick Bastin will be compensated by a monthly payment of US $10 000,00 (ten thousand US $) to be paid to the bank account he will indicate.
“The account of EVERGLADE OIL INC No 239783 with Audi Saradar Private Bank seal in Beirut Lebanon will be responsible to set up a standing instruction for those payments to start on November 1 -2008.
“In addition, M. Patrick Bastin will be entitled to a Corporate Visa card from Everglade Oil Inc for expenses up to SS 10,000 per month to be justified after to M. J A Tinubu.
“This agreement can be terminated at any moment by M. JA. Tinubu with one month notice,” the email stated.
The documents also showed that some staffers of Oando Plc were on some of Tinubu’s incorporation of shell companies.
After the resignation of one Kirk Thompson, who is believed to be the original nominee director for Tinubu in Everglade Oil Inc., on December 14, 2007, Daniel Boyo (it is not clear whether he is a relative of Omamofe Boyo), a London-based business development consultant with Oando Trading Limited, a subsidiary of Oando Plc, sent an email on January 11, 2008, to Thierry instructing him to contact Everglade Oil agents in Seychelles to draft a new certificate of incumbency for the company, mentioning Terry Cunningham as its new single director.
Documents show that Seychelles is particularly an attractive offshore destination for several top Nigerian businessmen.
Several shell companies owned by Nigerians in tax havens were incorporated in the small Indian Ocean country, with a population of just under 90,000 people. They were registered as International Business Companies (IBC).
Seychelles IBCs are among the most popular IBCs in the secretive world of offshore jurisdictions. IBCs incorporated in the Seychelles are prohibited from doing businesses within the country or owning real estate. They are not required to pay taxes, submit financial details or carry out audits on their finances.
An email sent from Mossack Fonseca’s office in Seychelles to Saria Rahme Kali of Afrex and Mr Clamorgan requesting details of the bearers of the shares of a cluster of IBCs domiciled in Seychelles revealed the extensive involvement of Nigerians in offshore tax havens.
The document revealed that Sayyu Dantata, the half-brother of Africa’s wealthiest man, Aliko Dangote, is linked to seven IBC – Appelby Holding Ltd, Juno Equities Incorporated, MRS Holding Ltd, MRS Oil and Gas, Nisco Holding Ltd (60 per cent), and Oval Refining S.A, Ovlas S.A (50 per cent).
Similarly, Adetokunbo Sijuwade, the son of the late Ooni of Ife, Okunade Sijuwade, is the director of Mandhari Water Investment Inc. and Izwelethu Aluminium and Steel Inc.
Tinubu’s deputy, Boyo, was listed as director in three IBCs- Everglade Oil Inc, Meridian Procurement International Services, and QVS Ltd.
Nigerians Abiose Eldred Ogan-Cole and Mojisole Adeniran both own 50 per cent share each in Qaisar.
Attempts to reach Wale and Boyo to respond to the allegations proved abortive.