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How wealthy NPA Ag. MD, Bello-Koko, acquired and hid five London properties – Pandora Papers Leak

Joins the long list of corrupt officials — Governor of Kebbi State, Sen. Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, who has been in office since May 29, 2015 and amassed dirty billions and hid away; a one-time Anambra Governor Peter Obi named by Pandora Papers

Ag NPA MD Bello-Koko

 

 

… Bello-Koko as Nigerian public servant cum director of two foreign companies has violated the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act (Sections 5 and 6)

Another big Nigerian public servant with networth running into billions of dollars, the Acting Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mr Mohammed Bello-Koko, has been named in the Pandora Papers Leak,

thereby swelling the corrupt officials pool in Nigeria including a serving governor and an ex-governor.

Bello-Koko, who is yet to be confirmed as the substantive Managing Director of NPA by President Muhammadu Buhari, took over following the indefinite suspension and month-long probe of the Managing Director/CEO, Ms. Hadiza Bala-Usman early this year.

Persecondnews recalls that her suspension was orchestrated by the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, as a result of some irreconcilable differences between them and  meddlesomeness on the part of the minister in the day-to-day running of the agency.

Pandora Papers — an unprecedented leak of financial records have revealed the offshore financial assets of dozens of current and former world leaders and hundreds of politicians from Asia and the Middle East to Latin America as well as Nigeria.

The reporters spent two years sifting through the leaked records, tracking down sources, and digging into court files and other public records from dozens of countries. It is the biggest collaboration of investigative journalists – from 117 countries and territories – in history.

 

The findings shed light on the previously hidden dealings of the elite and the corrupt, and how they have used offshore accounts to shield assets collectively worth trillions of dollars.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists obtained 11.9 million confidential documents from 14 separate legal and financial services firms, which the group said offered “a sweeping look at an industry that helps the world’s ultra-wealthy, powerful government officials and other elites conceal trillions of dollars from tax authorities, prosecutors and others.”

Moving money through offshore accounts, in mostly low-tax jurisdictions, is legal in most countries, and many of the people named in the data release aren’t accused of criminal wrongdoing. But the journalist group said the 2.94 terabytes of financial and legal data — which makes this leak larger than the 2016 Panama papers release — shows the “offshore money machine operates in every corner of the planet, including the world’s largest democracies,” and involves some of the world’s most well-known banks and legal firms.

Bello-Koko as a public servant had violated Nigeria’s Code of Conduct laws by failing to declare his assets abroad particularly  the five London properties “anonymously acquired’’, using two companies — Coulwood Ltd and Marney Ltd.

 

According to the expose by Pandora Papers, one of the properties was acquired in May 2017 after Bello-Koko took over  at NPA prior to his appointment as Executive Director in charge of Finance and Administration in 2016.

The other four properties were acquired between 2009 and 2012, making Bello-Koko potentially exploit UK tax loopholes that allowed the owning of UK properties using so-called envelope structure, that is, anonymously owning properties through offshore companies.

Up to 2012, when former UK Finance Minister, George Osborne, declared new rules, owning property via an offshore company meant that ownership could be transferred by selling the company’s shares rather than the property itself, and in doing so, no UK property sale tax or capital gains tax would be paid.

Bello-Koko is a former banker with responsibility for managing accounts of energy firms at the defunct FSB International Bank and later Zenith Bank, where he managed the oil-rich Rivers State Government’s accounts.

The “smart’’ NPA boss with his wife, Agatha Anne Koko, enlisted the services of financial secrecy seller, Cook Worldwide and Alemán, Cordero, Galindo & Lee (Alcogal), an offshore law firm, to register Coulwood Limited (reg. number: 1487897) and Marney Limited (reg. number: 1487944) in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), one of the world’s most commonly used tax havens, in 2008. Both companies were registered the same day, June 19, 2008.

It was unearthed that Bello-Koko has continued to function as director of the two companies even as a public servant in violation of Nigeria’s Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act (Sections 5 and 6).

 

The regulators in the BVI also had his companies under watch for suspected money laundering, a problem Alcogal appeared to have helped him avoid with some misinformation provided to the regulators.

Although shell companies have been a key feature in illicit financial flow and are used to facilitate drug deals and terrorism financing, owning one is not necessarily illegal and can be for legitimate purposes.

In Bello-Koko’s case, having the shell companies at the time he did as a private-sector worker was not, on the face of it, criminal under Nigerian law.

In Bello-Koko’s case, having the shell companies at the time he did as a private-sector worker was not, on the face of it, criminal under Nigerian law.

Experts, however, say shell companies are frequently used to conceal assets and avoid or evade taxes. They are also used by players in corruption high-risk sectors such as banking, government contracting, petroleum, and real estate to facilitate the flow of dirty money, sometimes for shadowy political patrons.

However, if he did not declare the BVI shell companies or any of the properties they hold, that would be a violation of Nigeria’s code of conduct law for public officials, which requires the declaration of “all” assets and liabilities owned by a person, their spouse and unmarried children under 18 “immediately” after taking office.

Pandora Papers said Bello-Koko was introduced to Cook Worldwide by Yemi Edun, the British-Nigerian behind Daniel Ford, who has helped several other Nigerians, including politically exposed persons, PEPs, to facilitate the creation of shell companies which are in turn used to secretly invest in the UK property market.

A number of Nigerian-linked shell companies facilitated by Daniel Ford, a London property firm, were also used to own other London properties.

 

Bello-Koko first used Marney Limited to acquire Flat 2, Liberty Court, 141, Great North Way, London NW4 1PR with an FBN UK mortgage, on October 20, 2009, and, then on July 23, 2012, 62, Manton Road, Enfield, London EN3 6XZ mortgage-free (with cash). Both properties cost 275,000 pounds and 280,000 pounds, respectively, when they were acquired.

Using the second company, Coulwood Limited, Mr Bello-Koko also bought three other London properties, namely 62 Corner Mead, Hendon, (NW9 5RD) on November 25, 2008; 37 Redlands Road, Enfield (EN3 5HN) on August 16, 2011; and 14, Faraday House, Aurora Gardens, London (SW11 8ED) on May 3, 2017.

He paid 205,000 pounds for the 2011 Enfield property, and 235,000 pounds for the 2008 Hendon property. which he sold, according to records, in May 2017 for 350,000 pounds.

For the third property, the 2017 Aurora Garden property, he paid 475,000 pounds, being his largest single investment in the UK property market. This was acquired after his NPA appointment.

Analysis of the investments shows that between 2008 and 2012, four years before Mr Bello-Koko joined the NPA, he had spent on four London properties a sum of 995,000 pounds, an equivalent of 293 million Naira at the 2015 exchange rate of 294 Naira to a pound.

Bello-Koko’s Marney Limited and Coulwood Limited were among nine companies apparently placed under watch by the Financial Investigation Agency (FIA), the regulator in the British Virgin Islands. On January 20, 2017, FIA sought information about the affected companies, owned by Nigerians, Panamanians, and Russians from their registered agent, Alcogal, documents showed.

Of all the nine companies, only Marney and Couldwood have the same persons – Bello-Koko and his wife Agatha – as directors, shareholders, and ultimate beneficial owners, Alcogal told FIA.

Contacted for comment, Bello-Koko has yet to respond to enquiries about how he acquired the properties and for failing to declare them to the Code of Conduct Bureau in Abuja or Lagos in accordance with the laws of Nigeria.

Among those indicted are Governor of Kebbi State, Sen. Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, who has been in office since May 29, 2015 andamassed dirty billions and hid away; a one-time Anambra governor, Peter Obi.

Others are: Jordan king’s real estate empire
Jordan’s monarch, King Abdullah II, used an English accountant in Switzerland and lawyers in the British Virgin Islands to secretly purchase 14 luxury homes worth $106 million, including a $23 million property in California overlooking a beach, the ICIJ reported, noting the country relies on foreign aid to support its people and house millions of refugees. U.K. attorneys for the king told the ICIJ that he was not required to pay taxes under Jordanian law, has never misused public funds and has “security and privacy reasons to hold property through offshore companies.”

French Riviera estate
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who is currently running for re-election, “moved $22 million through offshore companies to buy a lavish estate on the French Riviera in 2009 while keeping his ownership secret,” ICIJ said. The five-bedroom Chateau Bigaud, which is owned by a subsidiary of one of Babis’s Czech companies, sits on 9.4 acres (3.8 hectares) in a hilltop village where Pablo Picasso spent the last years of his life, the group said.

The Queen and Azerbaijan

The data release revealed that Azerbaijan’s ruling Aliyev family traded around $540 million worth of U.K. property in recent years, reported the Guardian, one of the ICIJ’s media partners. Queen Elizabeth II’s Crown Estate bought one property worth almost $91 million from the family, and is currently in the middle of an internal review into the purchase, the Guardian said. “Given the potential concerns raised, we are looking into the matter,” a spokesperson for the Crown Estate told the paper, which added the Aliyevs declined to comment.

South Dakota, Nevada havens

One of the most “troubling revelations” for the U.S. was the role of South Dakota, Nevada and other states that have adopted financial secrecy laws that “rival those of offshore jurisdictions” and demonstrate America’s “expanding complicity in the offshore economy,” said the Washington Post, one of the ICIJ’s media partners. A former vice president of the Dominican Republic finalized several trusts in South Dakota to store his personal wealth and shares of one of the country’s largest sugar producers, the paper said.

Pakistan’s political elite

Several members of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s inner circle, including current and former cabinet ministers, “secretly owned an array of companies and trusts holding millions of dollars of hidden wealth,” the group reported. That could create a political headache for the former cricket star, who campaigned for the South Asian country’s highest office as the head of a reformist party that promised a strong anti-corruption agenda. Before the release of the Pandora papers, a Khan spokesperson told a news conference Khan had no offshore company, but ministers and advisers “will have to be held accountable” for their individual acts.

Tony Blair property purchase

The documents show former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife saved around $422,000 by using an offshore company to purchase an almost $9 million office in London’s Marylebone area that was partially owned by the family of a Bahraini minister, the Guardian reported. The paper said there was nothing illegal about the deal, but it “highlights a loophole that has enabled wealthy property owners not to pay a tax that is commonplace for ordinary Britons.”

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Written by Per Second News

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