Panama Papers Leak: Not only Ibori, but Saraki, Lionel Messi also Implicated among others

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The Panama Papers leak was a huge deal yesterday and it came as a great shock when Nigeria’s own James Ibori was implicated in the scandal with Mossack Fonseca, the law firm and offshore provider responsible for the leak.

It has now been revealed that Ibori is not the only Nigerian on the list with embattled Senate President, Bukola Saraki also in there along with his brother Laolu, his associate Obi Asika and Olufela Ibidapo.

The former Kwara State governor was according to the Panama Papers and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), he failed to declare assets belonging to his wife, Mrs Toyin Saraki, in secret offshore territories. Saraki responded noting that he has in his various assets declarations included properties owned individually by himself and his wife.

Saraki’s statement, signed by his Special Adviser (Media and Public Affairs) Yusuph Olaniyonu, said the property in question formed part of his wife’s family assets.

It said: “The property in question forms part of Dr. Saraki’s wife’s family asset. It is public knowledge that Mrs. Saraki comes from a family of independent means and wealth with numerous and varied assets acquired over decades in family estates and investments.

“Furthermore, the law only requires a public officer to declare both his own assets and those held by his spouse and his children under 18 years of age. The law does not require a public officer to declare assets held by the spouse’s family.

“It is not expected by the law that a public officer should declare such assets held in the spouse’s family estate.

“Indeed, the Code of Conduct form does not make provision for declaration of spouse’s family assets.”

But the report in the  Panama Papers alleged that at least four assets belonging to the Saraki family, tucked away in secret offshore territories, have been uncovered.

It alleged that the Senate President failed to declare them to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) as required by Nigerian laws.

In a written response to ICIJ, the Senate President insisted, through his UK lawyers, that he “declared his assets properly in accordance with the relevant legislation,” and that the charges against him “are both unfounded and politically motivated”.

Last September, the CCB slammed false assets declaration charges on Saraki, accusing the Senate President of among other things, failure to declare his assets in full.

In his declaration form,  Saraki listed property owned by his wife, Toyin Saraki, to include a plot of land at Lekki valued at N5 million, which he said was a gift received in January 1989.

Mrs. Saraki was also listed as owner of a property at 15 Bryanston Square, London W1 and 69 Bourne Street, London.

While the first, which rental income was put at £48,000 with a value of £900,000, was acquired in January 1989, the second, which value was put at £2m and had rental value of £150,000, was acquired for business in April 2000.

However, a fresh investigation by Premium Times and its media partners, has uncovered a hidden London property in the name of Toyin Saraki but which was left out among the assets declared by the Senate President.

The hidden property is located at #8 Whuttaker Street, Belgravia, London SW1W 8JQ. It has title number NGL802235.

Similarly, the Senate President stated in his assets declaration form that his wife held an account in EcoBank, Broad Street, Lagos, where she had N1.5 million at the time he became governor in 2003.

She also maintained an account in Coutts & Co Strand, London, where she owned £450,000 and $125,000 in addition to $3 million in Northern Trust International Banking Corporation Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner.

Mrs. Saraki was also listed as maintaining substantial shares in European and American Trading Company, Tyberry Corporation and Eficaz Limited just as she held 500,000 shares, valued at £500,000 at P.C.C (U.K) Ltd. He was, however, silent on the number of shares the former first lady had in Haussmann and Tiny Tee (Nig) Limited.

Three additional overseas assets in the name of the wife of the Senate President were hidden from the authorities and are missing from the assets declaration form, a report said.

These three were companies allegedly owned by the wife of the Senate President offshore and used to acquire assets.

Football superstar, Lionel Messi was also implicated with the documents revealing that Megastar, a company not mentioned in he and his father’s tax evasion legal battle recently, was owned by the footballer.

The leaked records show Messi signed at least one document reflecting his ownership of Mega Star, but it seems that his father, Jorge Messi, took over sole ownership of the company in December 2015. The company remains active in Panama’s company register.

Other world figures who have been named include Bollywood’s Amitabh Bachchan, martial arts movie star, Jackie Chan, Zenith Bank founder, Mr. Jim Ovia, and associates of Russian President, Vladmir Putin.

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