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#PanamaPaper: Saraki, Ibori in fresh controversy over secret assets



The Senate President, Bukola Saraki’s family and a former governor of Delta State, James Ibori, were among some prominent Africans named in a newly discovered secret offshore assets scam released by a German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

The German newspaper on Monday  released the Panama Papers, the biggest leak in the history of data journalism, publishing online 11.5 million documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which showed how world leaders, celebrities, athletes, FIFA officials and criminals hid money using anonymous shell corporations across the world.

The Panamanian law firm, regarded as one of the world’s most secretive companies, according to the documents, has helped clients launder money, dodge sanctions and evade tax.

The data was obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung <> and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists with over 100 other media partners in 82 countries.

Newsweek quoting the report disclosed that Ibori was linked to four offshore companies including Stanhope Investments, which he allegedly used to open a Swiss bank account. The account, it added, was used by Ibori to channel funds for the purchase of a $20m private jet.

Ibori was governor between 1999 and 2007. He was convicted in 2012 for fraud totalling nearly £50m  by a London court and is currently serving a 13-year prison sentence in the UK

It was also alleged that about four assets belonging to the Saraki family were tucked away in secret offshore territories.

The assets were allegedly not part of the ones declared by the Senate President nor his wife, Toyin when Saraki became the governor of Kwara State and after he was sworn in as the nation’s number three citizen.

Quoting the report, Premium Times said the undeclared assets by Saraki include Girol Properties Ltd., Sandon Development Limited, and Landfield International Developments Ltd.

Girol Properties, the report stated, was registered on behalf of Toyin by Fonsecca on August 25, 2004, in the British Virgin Island,  a year after her husband, Bukola, became the governor of  Kwara  State.

It added that the company documents showed that Mrs. Saraki “owns 25,000 numbers of shares with a par value of US$ 1,000 each, and was appointed the first and only director of the company.

Mrs. Saraki, according to the online medium, however, in a letter to ICIJ, through her lawyers, denied ever owning any shareholding in Girol Properties.

According to ICIJ, the second undeclared asset, Sandon Development Limited, was registered in Seychelles Island on January 12, 2011 and had Mrs. Saraki and one Babatunde Morakinyo, of 11 Okeme Street, Lagos, as shareholders.

While incorporating that company, documents show, Mrs. Saraki bought a curious service from Mossack Fonseca & Co, the Panamanian firm that helped her to register the firm.

The online medium noted that this was done by Saraki’s wife in order to avoid being identified as the beneficial owner of Sandon, the Senate President’s wife asked Mossack Fonsecca to provide nominee directors for the company.

Nominee directors, according to the report are sometimes used in tax havens to conceal real owners of companies and assets.

It added that after the company was incorporated, Mrs. Saraki used it in July 2011, to allegedly buy the property on Whuttaker Street, Belgravia, London SW1W 8JQ.

Landfield International Developments Ltd., a company registered in the British Virgin Islands on April 8, 2014. It’s registration number is 1819394 while its registered office is 1 Akara Blog., 24 De Castro Street, Wickhams Cay 1, Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Island.

According to Mossack Fonseca, the registered agent of the company, Mrs. Saraki, at least until January 27, 2015, was sole shareholder and beneficial owner of the company which had two nominee directors – Glaisd Alie Limited and NewGombe Limited – both appointed on September 2, 2014. Its agent says Landfield is authorized to issue a maximum of 50,000 no par value shares.

However, Mrs Saraki had denied ownership of these companies in a letter her lawyer wrote to the ICIJ.

But Saraki, while reacting to the report, said the assets allegedly linked to  him actually belonged to the family of his wife which he was not obliged to declare under the law.

He, however, said he had fully complied with the provisions of the law on the declaration of assets by public officers.

He stated  this in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu.

Saraki said he had, in his different asset declarations, included properties owned individually by himself and his wife.

He explained that the property in question formed part of his wife’s family asset.

The statement partly read, “ It is public knowledge that Mrs. Saraki comes from a family of independent means and wealth with numerous and varied assets acquired over decades in family estates and investments.

“Furthermore, the law only requires a public officer to declare both his own assets and those held by his spouse and his children under 18 years of age. The law does not require a public officer to declare assets held by the spouse’s family.

“It is not expected by the law that a public officer should declare such assets held in the spouse’s family estate. Indeed, the Code of Conduct form does not make provision for declaration of spouse’s family assets.”

Other Africans named in the hidden assets scam included the nephew of embattled South African President Jacob Zuma, Khulubuse Zuma, Kalpana Rawal, the Deputy Chief Justice and Deputy President of Kenya’s Supreme Court.

Some Nigerians and civil right groups who reacted to the fresh scam called for the prosecution of  anybody involved in such an illegal transfer of funds.

The Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Musa- Rafsanjani,  in a telephone interview withThe PUNCH, in Abuja,  said civil society had for the past 18 years clomoured for a thorough investigation of individuals and corporate organizations such as banks and construction companies that had been used as conduits to fritter away our common patrimony.

The Executive Chairman of the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, Mr. Debo Adeniran, said the group could no longer be shocked by any such a revelation, given that the Saraki’s family had been in public office for long and had had for long had access to the country’s resources.

Also, a  former Lagos State Police Commissioner, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, said it was time Nigeria tightened its anti-corruption/ money laundering laws.

He noted that our laws as they were  appear to threat economic crimes with levity.

According to him, it is sad that most of our government officials both elected and appointed think more of enriching themselves as soon as they enter office instead of working for the common good.

Tsav said, “The best thing our government can do now is to strengthen our laws to prevent people who stole our common wealth from taking such monies abroad either by themselves or through proxies using offshore accounts.

A security expert, Max Gbanite has said that the United Kingdom law could take its course against Saraki, if it was proven that he had hidden properties and bank accounts in London.

Gbanite said,  “If he (Saraki) was found to have hidden properties in UK, the UK law should take its course, if the Federal  Government gets a good lawyer. The corruption cases cannot go far if there is no special court and they must not take longer than six months. The EFCC forensic department is capable of finding out if the properties belong to Saraki and this could be proved in court.”

The Executive Director of the Civil Liberties Organisation, Mr. Ibuchukwu Ezike, said the disclosure by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists remained a rumour until properly investigated by authorised agencies.

Ezike said, “Whatever allegations that are being made, the matter is already in court; so, until the court decides on the matter, we cannot have a contrary opinion. We await the outcome of the case.

“The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists is not a prosecuting agency, whatever they say is still like a rumour; they don’t have the power to file charges or prosecute and we know that the matter is in court, we cannot intervene or meddle in a matter that is already in court. The CLO is a law-abiding organisation, we cannot say or do anything that will interfere with the judicial process.”



WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners



…Stresses the need for timely disbursement of N44.6billion CVFF***

Highly revered Nigerian Maritime Lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Igbokwe has urged the Nigeria Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA) to partner with ship owners and relevant association in the industry to evolving a more vibrant merchant shipping and cabotage trade regime.

Igbokwe gave the counsel during his paper presentation at the just concluded two-day stakeholders’ meeting on Cabotage waiver restrictions, organized by NIMASA.

“NIMASA and shipowners should develop merchant shipping including cabotage trade. A good start is to partner with the relevant associations in this field, such as the Nigeria Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Oil Trade Group & Maritime Trade Group of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

“A cursory look at their vision, mission and objectives, show that they are willing to improve the maritime sector, not just for their members but for stakeholders in the maritime economy and the country”.

Adding that it is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a through briefing and regular consultation with ships owners, in other to have insight on the challenges facing the ship owners.

“It is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a thorough briefing and regular consultations with shipowners, to receive insight on the challenges they face, and how the Agency can assist in solving them and encouraging them to invest and participate in the maritime sector, for its development. 

“NIMASA should see them as partners in progress because, if they do not invest in buying ships and registering them in Nigeria, there would be no Nigerian-owned ships in its Register and NIMASA would be unable to discharge its main objective.

The Maritime lawyer also urged NIMASA  to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)that currently stands at about N44.6 billion.

“Lest it be forgotten, what is on the lips of almost every shipowner, is the need to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (the CVFF’), which was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003. It was established to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity, by providing financial assistance to Nigerian citizens and shipping companies wholly owned by Nigerian operating in the domestic coastal shipping, to purchase and maintain vessels and build shipping capacity. 

“Research shows that this fund has grown to about N44.6billion; and that due to its non-disbursement, financial institutions have repossessed some vessels, resulting in a 43% reduction of the number of operational indigenous shipping companies in Nigeria, in the past few years. 

“Without beating around the bush, to promote indigenous maritime development, prompt action must be taken by NIMASA to commence the disbursement of this Fund to qualified shipowners pursuant to the extant Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (“CVFF”) Regulations.

Mike Igbokwe (SAN)

“Indeed, as part of its statutory functions, NIMASA is to enforce and administer the provisions of the Cabotage Act 2003 and develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ships and other maritime infrastructure. Disbursing the CVFF is one of the ways NIMASA can fulfill this mandate.

“To assist in this task, there must be collaboration between NIMASA, financial institutions, the Minister of Transportation, as contained in the CVFF Regulations that are yet to be implemented”, the legal guru highlighted further. 

He urged the agency to create the right environment for its stakeholders to build on and engender the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders.

“Lastly, which is the main reason why we are all here, cessation of ministerial waivers on some cabotage requirements, which I believe is worth applause in favour of NIMASA. 

“This is because it appears that the readiness to obtain/grant waivers had made some of the vessels and their owners engaged in cabotage trade, to become complacent and indifferent in quickly ensuring that they updated their capacities, so as not to require the waivers. 

“The cessation of waivers is a way of forcing the relevant stakeholders of the maritime sector, to find workable solutions within, for maritime development and fill the gaps in the local capacities in 100% Nigerian crewing, ship ownership, and ship building, that had necessitated the existence of the waivers since about 15 years ago, when the Cabotage Act came into being. 

“However, NIMASA must ensure that the right environment is provided for its stakeholders to build and possess the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders. Or better still, that they are solved within the next 5 years of its intention to stop granting waivers”, he further explained. 

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Breaking News: The Funeral Rites of Matriarch C. Ogbeifun is Live



The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured



…As Valles Steamship Orders 112,000 dwt Tanker from South Korea***

A wind farm supply vessel and a cargo ship collided in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday leaving 15 injured.

The Cyprus-flagged 80-meter general cargo ship Raba collided with Denmark-flagged 31-meter wind farm supply vessel World Bora near Rügen Island, about three nautical miles off the coast of Hamburg. 

Many of those injured were service engineers on the wind farm vessel, and 10 were seriously hurt. 

They were headed to Iberdrola’s 350MW Wikinger wind farm. Nine of the people on board the World Bora were employees of Siemens Gamesa, two were employees of Iberdrola and four were crew.

The cause of the incident is not yet known, and no pollution has been reported.

After the collision, the two ships were able to proceed to Rügen under their own power, and the injured were then taken to hospital. 

Lifeboat crews from the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service tended to them prior to their transport to hospital via ambulance and helicopter.

“Iberdrola wishes to thank the rescue services for their diligence and professionalism,” the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Hong Kong-based shipowner Valles Steamship has ordered a new 112,000 dwt crude oil tanker from South Korea’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine & Engineering.

Sumitomo is to deliver the Aframax to Valles Steamship by the end of 2020, according to data provided by Asiasis.

The newbuild Aframax will join seven other Aframaxes in Valles Steamship’s fleet. Other ships operated by the company include Panamax bulkers and medium and long range product tankers.

The company’s most-recently delivered unit is the 114,426 dwt Aframax tanker Seagalaxy. The naming and delivery of the tanker took place in February 2019, at Namura Shipbuilding’s yard in Japan.

Maritime Executive with additional report from World Maritime News

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