Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State is one of several high profile African figures named in the controversial possession of the passport of St. Kitts and Nevis, a tiny Caribbean nation known to be a hub of money laundering and illicit financial activities.
Mr. Akpabio, who is one of President Goodluck Jonathan's closest associates, is named alongside Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, one of the most corrupt scions of a dictator in the world. Teodoro is the son of Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the strongman ruler of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea.
Teodoro is currently facing corruption charges in France. Until last month, he was also facing money laundering charges in the US, but the US Justice Department settled the case out of court after cutting a deal with Mr. Teodoro to forfeit some of his assets, including a $30-million Malibu mansion.
Also listed in the infamous list of “economic citizens” of St. Kitts and Nevis is a notorious oil subsidy thief, Oluwaseun Ogunbambo, who has been a fugitive from justice in Nigeria after being implicated in the theft of billions of naira from Nigeria’s oil subsidy funds. Mr. Ogunbambo is known to own numerous passports.
In order to obtain a St. Kitts and Nevis passport, one must invest at least $400,000 in real estate in the Caribbean nation or contribute at least $250,000 to the St. Kitts and Nevis Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation, according the stipulations of the St. Kitts and Nevis “Investment Program.” “That means that Governor Akpabio has sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars of fund belonging to the long suffering people of Akwa Ibom in order to qualify to own a passport from St. Kitts and Nevis,” an Uyo-based critic of Mr. Akpabio said.
The US Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has warned the Caribbean nation that several individuals who obtained St-Kitts and Nevis passports through the nebulous investment program are engaging in illegal financial activities.
Nigerian politicians have a history of buying passports from fringe nations noted for shielding individuals who engage in shady financial transactions. Several of these nations also serve as tax havens for hiding profits and laundering money. One notable example is current Nigerian Senate President David Mark who is known to be a citizen of Belize, a tiny country in eastern Central America. Mr. Mark hid millions of dollars stolen from Nigeria in offshore bank accounts until a bitter divorce from his former wife, Victoria, exposed his hidden wealth.
SaharaReporters contacted Mr. Akpabio via text message but he did not respond. His commissioner of information, Aniekan Umanah, however said Mr. Akpabio had only been to St. Kitts and Nevis once on the invitation of the prime minister to attend the island nation’s Independence Day celebration last year. He said he could not ascertain if Mr. Akpabio obtained a passport from St. Kitts and Nevis. He promised to get back to us, and when he did he said Mr. Akpabio doesn't have a passport of St. Kitts and Nevins.