Documents available to Saharareporters paint a picture of how former Governor James Ibori of Delta State used international collaborators, offshore shell companies and local assistants to buy a Bombardier Challenger jet from Bombardier Aerospace Incorporated, Canada’s leading private jet manufacturing company.
A series of documents compiled by investigators on Ibori’s large scale money laundering activities detailed shocking maneuvers by the ex-governor in the purchase of the Bombardier jet. Going beyond the narrative of high wire corruption and money laundering schemes, the documents tell a story of a world of offshore havens to which Nigerian local resources were diverted by Ibori—and other political office holders.
“This explains why the Nigerian nation is stripped of resources that should be invested in providing basic social needs for the populace,” said a New York-based Nigerian political scientist who was briefed on some of the details in the Ibori dossier.
For a period of eight years starting from May 29 1999 to May 2007, the 48-year old James Ibori was governor of Delta State. During this period—and in particular between 2005 and 2006—Ibori illegally transferred close to £20 million pounds out of Delta State to the United Kingdom. The transfers were laundered through cronies, relatives and shell companies.
The documents list Haleway Properties Limited, registered in Gibraltar, as one of Ibori’s front companies. But another company known as Teleton Quays Limited, registered in the British Virgin Islands, was used to purchase the Challenger jet from Bombardier Incorporated. Telaton Quays, which also owns 42 Great Ground Street, Shaftsbury in Dorset (UK) was incorporated by Mr. Gohil of Arlington Sharmas solicitors in London.
Mr. Gohil also incorporated another company, Erin Aviation Limited, in Mauritius. Erin Aviation received an assignment from Telaton Quays Limited to help in the purchase of the Bombadier jet. The contract with Bombardier Incorporated was executed by way of a deed of assignment made on December 14 2006 between Telaton Quays Limited, Bombardier Inc. and Erin Aviation Limited.
Saharareporters learnt that funds for the purchase of the $20 million Bombardier Challenger 604 jet were paid to the jet’s manufacturer through different shell companies around the globe. First, the sum of $4.7 million was transferred to Bombardier from a Mauritius-based Parabola International Corp through the solicitors’ firm of Arlington Sharmas in London. The money from Parabola originated from an account opened and maintained by James Ibori in Switzerland in the name of a company known as “Stanhope.” Further funds were transferred to Sharmas solicitors in London from a Lagos-based aviation company, Wings Aviation Limited.
One Bhadresh Gohil, a partner at Arlington Sharmas solicitors of 6 Arlington Street, London SW1 was the central figure in the Bombardier Challenger jet transactions. Mr. Gohil incorporated Telaton Quays and was the authorized signatory in the deal to purchase the Challenger jet. Mr. Gohil, according to the documents available to Saharareporters, is known to have coordinated the purchase of the Challenger jet with Mr. Nogie Meggison, the director of Wings Aviation of Nigeria.
Mr. Meggison, an air pilot, identified as a beneficial owner of Wings Aviation Limited, also provided $3 million through Mr. Gohil to Bombardier. In a due diligence letter to Bombadier Inc., Mr. Gohil described Mr. Meggision as a "well-known and respected" operator in the aviation industry. But investigators discovered that Wings Aviation is actually owned by Stanhope and Parabola through another unnamed parent company directly controlled by Mr. James Ibori.
The documents also reveal that money laundering investigations were commenced against James Ibori in 2005 by the Metropolitan Police in London with the assistance of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other overseas countries that were not cited by name.
The documents available to Saharareporters accuse Ibori of actively diverting funds that have been allocated to education and citizen's welfare in Delta State for his personal use through United Kingdom banks. The documents specifically named the former governor as well as his sister, Mrs. Ibori-Ibie, his personal assistant, Adebimpe Pogoson, and his longtime associate and mistress Udo Amaka Okoronkwo (nee Onuigbo) as active collaborators in the money laundering scheme.
A cursory description of the three suspects gave an idea of how monies were transferred out of Delta State and later redistributed to several front companies and invested to mr. Ibori’s sole advantage. With respect to Ibori-Ibie, the documents stated that she transferred funds on the instruction of Ibori in cash and bank drafts which were paid into bank accounts in Asaba, Delta State in amounts including £150,000, £80,000 and £70,000 during 2005. The funds were first transferred to a Lagos-based currency exchange company, Menkat, and then to the UK via a company called "Countrywide Paymasters".
In addition, at Ibori’s instruction, Mrs. Okoronkwo in 2005 transferred funds out of Nigeria through banks in Asaba, the Delta State capital. The funds, in the amounts of £199,985, £149,985 and £199,985, were again transferred into Menkat and then into the UK banking system through Countrywide Paymasters. These funds were then transferred to James Ibori, Ibori-Ibie and Terry Waya who recently received a light sentence arising from a money laundering case at the Southwark Crown Court in London. The British court systems still holds the sum of £500,000 recovered from Terry Waya and plans a confiscation hearing on his London property in November 2007.
In the case of Adebimpe Pogoson, the documents reveal that she transferred money out of Nigeria through banks in Asaba and Lagos. These monies were later transferred electronically into a UK sterling account held in the name of MER Engineering. Ex-Governor Ibori was a director of this company until he became the governor of Delta State. In 1999, Adebimpe Pogoson was the sole signatory to the account of MER Engineering in London. Funds were transferred electronically to Private Bank AG Geneva. The account in the bank is in the name of Stanhope Investments Ltd. Approximately £2 million was transferred from Nigeria into the account of MER Engineering during 2004/2005, and most transferred out of accounts controlled by James Ibori in Switzerland.
Ibori also used locally registered companies to transfer funds to his account overseas. A company named Wokson International Limited is believed to have benefited from contracts with Delta State government and to have transferred funds to overseas jurisdiction on behalf of Ibori. Two other companies, Sagicon Nigeria Limited and Onovin Nigeria, received funds from the Delta State Sports Ministry. Udo Amaka Okoronkwo is the sole director of Sagicon Nigeria Limited while Ibie Ibori is linked to Onovin Nigeria Limited. In a letter dated March 2, 2006 and written to Mr. Martin Morrison and Company, a firm of Chartered Certified Accountants at 17 Depford Church Street, London SE 8 4RX, Ibie Ibori was identified as a procurement agent for Onovin Nigeria Limited.
Current Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta, who was a commissioner under Ibori, admitted in his statements to EFCC investigators that the sum of N38.9 million was paid to Ibie Ibori through the Asaba branch of United Bank of Africa (UBA) because she acted as a purchaser of "running tracks" for stadia in Delta State. Mr. Uduaghan stated specifically that on February 8th 2005, N38.8 million was paid directly into the account of Menkat Limited held with Countrywide Paymasters Limited. The money was deposited at the Asaba Branch of the UBA bank. The monies were transferred on February 9th 2005 to Barclays Bank in London with the help of a UBA account executive, Mr. Elumelu, who facilitated the transfers to Barclays Bank account number 10287717 with sort code 20-96-55 held by Ibie Ibori. Mr. Elumelu instructed Countrywide Paymasters to transfer £300,000 out of Menkat accounts. On the same date, another amount of £150,000 was transferred. Two further sums £80,000 and £70,000 was transferred on February 21 2005 to Ibie Ibori's account at Barclays bank.
Investigators believe that Ibori sought to use Telaton Quays/Erin Aviation Ltd to invest in the purchase of a Challenger aircraft currently located at Bombardier Incorporated, Montreal. The aircraft was built to order on the instructions of Mr Nogie Meggison of Wings Aviation. Our investigations indicate that the aircraft’s price tag is $20 million.
The initial deposit for the aircraft in the sum of $4,788,176.92 was paid from nominee accounts owned and controlled by Ibori. In June 2005, $4.7 million was received from Stanhope into the Kaingo account number 22065 (Parabola) held in Schroders, Zurich, and transferred to Arlington Sharmas Solicitors for onward transfer to Bombardier Inc. Investigators strongly suspect that the funds made available to Bombardier Incorporated represent the proceeds of criminal activity in Nigeria.
Saharareporters pored over documents which shows that funds were recorded as entering into Arlington Sharmas client account 'Wing Aviation Ltd Re: Challenger 300' between June 05 and November, of which $8,005,245 was recorded as being transferred to Bombardier Inc as follows:June 2005: $599,963.98 from Wings Aviation Ltd; Sept 2005: $4,788,176.92 from Parabola; May 2006: $999,806.96 and $998, 635.72 from Erin Aviation Ltd; June 2006: $249,006.89 from Pamaron Oil and Gas Limited (Pamaron is stated by Mr Meggison to belong to him) By letter dated 25 August 2005 to a company in Genera, Dzlurzynski & Associates SA, Mr Bharesh Gohil of Arlington Sharmas wrote that Stanhope Investments Ltd and Parabola International were the principal shareholders of Aviation Development Corporation (ADC) Plc, whose subsidiary is Wings Aviation. It was stated that total purchase price of the Challenger jet would be $20m and the aircraft would form part of the Charter company structure. In a letter from Mr Nogie Meggison on behalf of Wings Aviation Ltd dated 24 October 2005 to Parabola he refers to their investment into Telaton Quays and Clover International. Mr Nogie Meggison appears to confirm that Stanhope Investments limited has invested in Wings Aviation for the purposes of this particular investment. It is states that the source of Wings' investment funds "have never been discussed with yourselves" and that Wings are not aware of any problems with the origin or source of these funds. There is therefore good reason to believe that Stanhope Investments, and therefore James Ibori, has provided the funds for purchase of the Challenger jet. This letter speaks volumes about a clever process that was aimed at hiding James Ibori ownership of Wings Aviation since he was a Politically Exposed Person whose involvement would have raised red flags within the industry, however two separate documents with dates in 2001 obtained by Saharareporters shows that a chartered accountant firm in Lagos, Efe Osowa and co. provides services to MER Engineering and Wings Aviation Limited under similar circumstances.
In further documents obtained by Saharareporters, an affidavit stated: “I can confirm that the sale of this aircraft is almost complete. A final payment is awaited. Once that payment has been cleared the aircraft will be properly registered and I have been informed that the aircraft will be registered in the United States. However, I have been in contact with Jones Day solicitors on behalf of Bombardier, and understand that the contract for the purchase of the aircraft may be terminated imminently resulting in the return of the purchase monies amounting to up to $20 million. I have been provided with contractual documents in respect of the proposed purchase and believe that provision is made for termination of the contract in certain circumstances, and that until the final payment and acceptance has been made the property in the aircraft remains with Bombardier Inc.”, further documents also points to James Ibori’s insatiable appetite for luxury and his representatives in the Bobardier jet deal kept making new order specifications till March 2007.
Another document obtained by Saharareporters shows that as a governor, James Ibori's salary was £12,000 per annum, though a letter written and dated January 15th 2007 signed by Barrister Ovie Omo-Agege the secretary to the Delta State government titled “To Whom It May Concern” claimed that James Ibori’s travel allowances since May 1999 stood at approximately $2 million for local travels and $1 million for the former governor’s foreign trips in addition $20, 847 as his severance allowance at the end of Ibori’s first tenure in May 2003.
Saharareporters learns that in his application for a bank account on behalf of Stanhope James Ibori states that he might invest £100m in the bank and stated that he was 30% owner of the largest private oil company in Nigeria, Oando.
With regards to income of MER Engineering, a company James Ibori’s spokesperson Sheddy Ozoene publicly bragged was the former governor’s cash cow, only the payments of £2.98m from Chevron Oil and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company to M.E.R Engineering Ltd were purportedly legitimate, and in respected of the rental of 2 large houseboats (sleeping 70 persons). However, firstly there is no reason why the funds, if legitimate, should have been transferred to the UK for the benefit of James Ibori (who was no longer a shareholder in the company after taking office) according to a statement submitted by one Chiedu Ibie in November 2006. Secondly, it is suspected that the transfers were corrupt payments rather than in exchange for legitimate services, connected to the fact that at the time James Ibori was Governor. Moreover, these payments are a fraction of the total amount of money transferred to James Ibori's control during his governorship.
On the strength of the evidence gathered to support money laundering charges against James Ibori in London the documents stated that prosecutors moved to take over a Challenger 300 aircraft or alternatively any monies proposed to be returned by Bombardier Inc in respect of the termination of the proposed purchase: Barclays Bank Plc. Account number 0011-5916 sort code 20-47 in the name of James Ibori, Abbey National Instant Saver account number X105847511BC in the name of James Ibori Trustee for Miss Osaseri Ibie; All Accounts held by Stanhope Investments ltd at PKB private Bank AG, Switzerland and all other assets held by or on behalf of Stanhope Investment Ltd; All assets held by or on behalf of Teleton Quays Ltd.
Saharareporters also noticed that law enforcement agents in London requested that it is appropriate to treat the assets of Haleway Investments Limitedtd, Stanhope Investment ltd and Telaton Quays Limited as the assets of James Ibori. Elaborating in evidence and exhibits attached to court documents that they have strong grounds to believe that each of the companies are investment vehicles for James Ibori using his assets, and controlled by him, and that it is therefore appropriate to pierce the corporate veil in respect of each. Stanhope Investment Limited's account was opened in Switzerland by James Ibori and monies were transferred from that account for the purchase of the challenger jet. Telaton Quays Ltd was the purchase medium for James Ibori's house in Dorset, the Challenger jet, and the proposed purchase medium for land in Wincombe Lane. Haleway Investments Limited is the legal owner of the house in Hampstead occupied by James Ibori and his wife, Tessy.
A section of the court documents said that Bombardier Inc. have been made aware of the possibility of a restraint order in this case, and have signaled their concern that the terms of any order should not interfere with the terms of their contract with Telaton Quays Limited. It is respectfully submitted that Bombardier Inc. should, if the contract is terminated, return the monies paid towards the purchase of the Challenger jet (or such monies as are payable under the terms of the contract) to a restrained high-interest account in the United Kingdom. It is submitted that a clause in the proposed restraint order as follows would be appropriate: "In the event that Bombardier Inc. propose to return monies to Telaton Quays Ltd and/or Erin Aviation Ltd in respect of the purchase of the Challenger jet, the monies shall be transferred by Bombardier Inc. to an interest-bearing account in the United kingdom to be nominated and agreed between Telaton Quays Limited, Erin Aviation Limited and British authorities."
The biggest puzzle in all of the jet purchase points to another worrisome conspiracy that shows a purchase path of another Bombardier Challenger jet 300 with registration number 3B-SSD delivered to Nigeria in June 2007 through Shannon/Limerick airport in Ireland which Saharareporters reported was registered in Mauritius and belonged to former president Obasanjo this transaction which is also linked to James Ibori may have gone undetected. Sources have told Saharareporters that the jet was purchased by James Ibori on behalf of former president Olusegun Obasanjo. It is believed that James Ibori have another huge line of offshore money laundering operation in the Caribbean Islands and the United States as well as Nigeria that is completely hidden away from anti-corruption investigators in the United Kingdom. Was Ibori able to fool the UK police, only time will tell!