Pandora Papers, an investigation led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), has exposed the secrets behind the London mansion of Asiwaju Bol
PREMIUM TIMES is the only Nigerian newspaper among 150 news organisations that have direct access to a trove of almost 12 million confidential files on the illicit wealth of some of the most powerful persons on earth.
In previous reports, PREMIUM TIMES exposed how some influential Nigerians, including former Governor Peter Obi, Senator Stella Oduah, and Governor Atiku Bagudu hid stolen wealth overseas.
In the latest investigation, the secret tax haven of Tinubu, National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and Governor Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State, who is a relation of Tinubu, were exposed.
According to the report, the mansion where Tinubu, who is currently in London, has been receiving top politicians and high-profile personalities, is embroiled in a multi-billion fraud scandal.
The report said the government of President Muhammadu Buhari had actually secured a freezing order on the property from a Federal High Court before the previous owner, who is now an international fugitive, sold it at a huge discount to an offshore company owned Oyetola.
The expanse 6,975 sq ft property is situated at 32 Grove End Road, in the wealthy Westminster neighbourhood of London.
According to an advert brochure of the property released by popular United Kingdom real estate company, Savills, the estate is made up of two buildings – a five-bedroom property with a formal reception, a study, a master bedroom with an en suite dressing room, bathroom and a cinema suite with a balcony overlooking the rear garden.
Two of the other four bedrooms in the property are en suite. The second building on the estate is a self-contained two-bedroom flat which is built above the property’s double length garage. The property has a gym, two guest cloakrooms, a carriage driveway that can park up to eight cars, and front and rear gardens, and an electric gate.
Bought from a fugitive at a £8 million discount
“Documents obtained from the UK property register revealed that in July 2013, the property with title number 340992, was bought for £11.95 million by Zavlil Holdings Ltd, a shell company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, a notorious tax haven,” PREMIUM TIMES said in its report.
“Documents revealed that Zavlil Holdings Limited is owned by Kolawole Aluko, an international fugitive wanted by law enforcement agencies in Nigeria and the United States for money laundering.
“Kola Aluko and his associate, Jide Omokore, were indicted in the U.S. and Nigeria for multi-million-dollar fraud and money laundering violations allegedly in collusion with a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
“In 2016, the Federal Government of Nigeria filed a Mareva injunction at a Federal High Court in Lagos seeking to confiscate a list of properties belonging to Messrs Aluko and Omokore valued at $1.8 billion.
“A Mareva injunction is a Court order which freezes the assets of a defendant pending the outcome of a litigation.
“In the suit against Messrs Omokore and Aluko, alongside their companies, Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Nigeria Limited and Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited, the Nigerian Government asked the court to grant it seven orders to prevent the accused from disposing the assets. The government alleged they were acquired through fraudulent means.
“The court granted the government all its prayers. In October 2017, an attempt by the defendants to dismiss the Mareva injunction granted on the properties was subsequently dismissed by Oluremi Oguntoyinbo, the trial judge.”
The report said shortly after the court granted the order, Aluko sold the house for £9 million to Aranda Overseas Corporation, an offshore company incorporated in the British Virgins Island by two of Mr Tinubu’s most trusted surrogates – Oyetola, formerly chair of Paragon Group of Companies, and Elusanmi Eludoyin, who succeeded Oyetola at Paragon.
“The huge discount at which the property was sold is curious and raised questions of whether Mr Aluko desperately needed to sell the property even while a court of law had placed a freeze order on it,” the report read.
“The United Kingdom, especially the greater London area, is noted for rapid increase in the value of properties.”
How public photos were used to confirm Identity of the London villa
In the application filed by the Nigerian government, the house number of the property on Grove End Road was omitted. However, PREMIUM TIMES’ extensive investigation in Nigeria and the U.K., including a detailed analysis of photographs of visits to Tinubu, has shown that the APC leader is staying at the same property the Nigerian government wants forfeited.
“We were also able to determine that it was at the same property that Mr Tinubu welcomed Mr Buhari on August 12 as well as other politicians who visited him.
“Our reporters carefully analysed some of the photos of these visits. Sources close to Mr Tinubu also confirmed that he stays and welcomes guests, including Mr Buhari, at the property.
“Two photos of the visit of Mr Abiodun, the governor of Ogun State, were particularly helpful in making the initial connections,” the report read.
PREMIUM TIMES said it put its findings to Tunde Rahman, spokesperson of Tinubu, but he promised to get back within 24 hours, however, he had not done so as of the time the story was published.
Garba Shehu, Presidential spokesman, was also contacted, according to the newspaper, but he promised to respond, just like Rahman did but he never fulfilled his promise.