The latest investigative report published by the Pandora Papers has revealed that the current governor of Ogun State is involved in offshore money laundering in contravention of the Code of Conduct Bureau extant laws.
Ogun State governor, Dapo Abiodun kept secret assets in tax havens in clear contravention of extant laws, a series of leaked documents has shown.
The leaked files which were retrieved from 14 offshore services firms around the world were revealed in a Pandora Papers project led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), and which PREMIUM TIMES is a part of.
The project saw 600 journalists from 150 news organisations around the world poring through a trove of 11.9 million confidential files, contextualising information, tracking down sources and analysing public records and other documents.
The leaked files were retrieved from some offshore services firms around the world that set up shell companies and other offshore entities for clients, many of them influential politicians, businesspersons and criminals, ostensibly in desperate moves to conceal their financial dealings.
The two-year collaboration has so far revealed the financial secrets of not less than 40 current and former world leaders, and more than 330 public officials in more than 91 countries.
The investigation revealed that Governor Abiodun failed to declare the companies and whatever assets they hold in his asset declaration filings with the Code of Conduct Bureau.
Documents reviewed showed that Abiodun is the sole director and beneficial owner of Marlowes Trading Corporation, a company operating under the laws of the British Virgin Island.
The governor equally owns and failed to declare Heyden Petroleum Limited, another BVI company registered offshore.
To set up an offshore structure in a tax haven and secrecy-enabling jurisdiction, Abiodun hired Dubai-based SFM Corporate Services for advice and execution. SFM Corporate Services specialises in trust and offshore company formation services, offshore bank account opening and related services.
It was SFM Corporate Services that in turn hired Alemán, Cordero, Galindo & Lee (alcogal), and a Panamanian secrecy seller, to incorporate Marlowes Trading Corporation for Abiodun.
After some back and forth between SFM and Alcogal, the offshore company was incorporated in the British Virgin Island on January 12, 2015.
Abiodun was then appointed sole director and shareholder of the company. The businessman was also issued a share certificate number.
The nature of business Marlowes engages in remains unclear. But it has continued to operate out of the Dubai office of SFM Corporate Services located at The H Dubai-Office Building, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai. The key contact person for the firm is one Samuel Kim Oh.
Apart from Marlowes, documents show that Abiodun also owns Heyden Petroleum Limited, which shares the name with a Nigerian company he also owns. He established the Nigerian version of Heyden in 2001.
Details of a letter dated March 21, 2016, showed that the governor is the sole beneficial owner of Heyden BVI.
However, in the letter, addressed to SFM Corporate Services, Abiodun notified the firm of his decision to grant one Okechukwu Chikezie Nzelum the authority to “handle exclusively all administrative requests with regard to the Company.”
The governor noted, however, that the said Chikeziem “is not authorised to engage the company commercially.”
PREMIUM TIMES found that neither of the two companies was made public in the asset declaration form filled by Mr Abiodun upon assumption of office as Ogun State governor in 2019, in clear contravention of the provisions of the constitution.
Section 11 of the fifth schedule of the Nigerian constitution states that subject to the provisions of the constitution, every public officer shall within three months after the coming into force of the Code of Conduct or immediately after taking office and thereafter, submit to the Code of Conduct Bureau a written declaration of all his properties, assets, and liabilities and those of his unmarried children under the age of eighteen years.
In sub-section 2 of the same section, the law states that: “Any statement in such declaration that is found to be false by any authority or person authorised in that behalf to verify it shall be deemed to be a breach of this Code.”
It thereafter declared that “any property or assets acquired by a public officer after any declaration required under this Constitution and which is not fairly attributable to income, gift, or loan approved by this Code shall be deemed to have been acquired in breach of this Code unless the contrary is proved.”
Along with his ownership of BVI companies, documents reviewed show that Abiodun also runs a Swiss bank account.
According to Section 7 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, certain public office holders are barred from maintaining foreign accounts.
“Any public officer specified in the Second Schedule to this Act or any other persons as the President may, from time to time, by order prescribe, shall not maintain or operate a bank account in any country outside Nigeria,” the section states.
The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was also explicit in its provisions.
In paragraph 3 of the fifth schedule, the constitution states that “the President, Vice-President, Governor, Deputy Governor, Ministers of the Government of the Federation and Commissioners of the Governments of the States, members of the National Assembly and of the Houses of Assembly of the States, and such other public officers or persons as the National Assembly may by law prescribe shall not maintain or operate a bank account in any country outside Nigeria.”