At least four assets belonging to the wealthy and famous Saraki family of Nigeria, all tucked away in secret offshore territories, have been uncovered.
But the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, failed to declare them to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) as required by Nigerian laws.
This revelation, made possible by internal data of the Panama-based offshore-provider, Mossack Fonseca, obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) with PREMIUM TIMES and over 100 other media partners in 82 countries, could worsen Mr. Saraki’s case as he battles to extricate himself from allegations of corruption.
Mr. Saraki is yet to respond to PREMIUM TIMES’ request for comments. His spokesperson, Yusuph Olayinonu, did not return calls or respond to a text message seeking comments.
But 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 asset declaration charges on Mr. Saraki, accusing the Senate President, among other things, of failure to declare his assets in full.
Under the code of conduct law, a public office holder is required to declare his own assets, those of his wife as well as assets in the names of his children below the age of 18.
In his declaration form, Mr. 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 he 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 Eco Bank 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 $3 million in Northern Trust International Banking Corporation Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner.
Mrs. Saraki was also listed as maintaining substantial shares in European and American Trading Company, Tyberry Corporation and Eficaz Limited just as she held 500,000 shares, valued at £500,000, at P.C.C (U.K) Ltd. He was however silent on the number of shares the former first lady had in Haussmann and Tiny Tee (Nig) Limited.
Elaborate as the declaration in the name of Mrs. Saraki appeared to be, PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively report that apart from the undeclared London property, three additional overseas assets in the name of the wife of the Senate President were hidden from the authorities and are missing from the assets declaration form.
Our investigations reveal that Mrs. Saraki owns secret companies in some notorious tax havens.
The hidden assets
The first, Girol Properties Ltd, was registered on August 25, 2004 (a year after Mrs. Saraki’s husband became governor of Nigeria’s north-central state of Kwara) in the British Virgin Island (BVI).
Company documents show that Mrs. Saraki owns 25,000 numbers of shares with a par value of US$ 1,00 each, and was appointed the first and only director of the company.
It however remains unclear what businesses Mrs Saraki transacted with the company. Mrs Saraki however, in a letter to ICIJ, through her lawyers, denies ever owning any shareholding in Girol Properties.