The revelations made by the Pandora Papers show how the governor of Kebbi State  Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, helped the Sani Abacha family to steal from Nigeria in the 1990s. Pandora Papers investigation – led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, including more than 600 journalists and about 150 news organisations worldwide – uncovered financial secrets, including those of politicians, former and serving public officials, known and suspected kleptocrats amassing illicit wealth.

The Pandora Papers project is the most extensive collaborative transnational investigation in the history of journalism, Involving 11.9 million leaked records, which journalists sifted through for two years.

The leaked records came from 14 offshore services firms worldwide that help clients set up shell companies and design opaque structures to conceal their financial dealings.

In 2010, Bagudu, then a senator, dispatched a delegation to Singapore in search of a new haven to shelter his controversial wealth, which is a target of ongoing forfeiture proceedings by the United States Department of Justice.

Bagudu’s delegation – comprising his brother, Ibrahim Bagudu, and London lawyer, Ben Davies, from Byrne and Partners, now a part of PCB Byrne – met with Asiaciti’s officials, they registered his preference for a new structure of secrecy to oil the flow of his dirty wealth for the benefits of himself and his family.

Investigators say the huge funds, warehoused offshore, is part of billions of dollars Mr Bagudu helped the Sani Abacha family to steal from Nigeria in the 1990s.

Referred by Farrer and Co., a prestigious centuries-old London law firm representing the British royal family, Mr Bagudu’s choice of secrecy provider in Singapore was Asiaciti Trust, an entity notorious for helping clients hide behind opaque offshore trusts to launder dirty money across borders.

Bagudu’s choice of secrecy provider in Singapore was Asiaciti Trust, an entity notorious for helping clients hide behind opaque offshore trusts to launder dirty money across borders.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore, MAS, imposed a fine of one million and a hundred thousand dollars on Asiaciti in July 2020 for “serious breaches” of Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regulations between 2007 and 2018.

Bagudu is long known to have played an instrumental role in the Abacha conspiracy to steal and launder billions of dollars belonging to Nigeria. But how he set up complicated structures of secrecy to hide stolen money as well as the role of his enablers, including prestigious British law firms and Serious Organised Crimes Agency (SOCA), the predecessor of the National Crimes Agency (NCA), has never been crystal clear.

Asiaciti helped Mr Bagudu set up a multi-layered structure with footprints in at least three countries, namely Singapore, Cook Islands, and the United Kingdom. At the head of the structure is Blue Holdings Trust, registered in Cooks Island as a “purpose trust” to “wholly” own a Singapore-incorporated private trust company, Blue PTC Pte Ltd., with Mr Bagudu’s brother, Ibrahim, and an Asiaciti nominee as directors.

The Blue PTC Pte Ltd is, in turn, the trustee of two family trusts – Blue Family Trust (1) and Blue Family Trust (2). Under each trust, then, is a Singapore family-owned investment holding company, FHIC, Blue Holdings (1) Pte Limited, and Blue Holdings (2) Pte Limited, respectively.

Each FHIC has an investment account with Waverton Investment Management, formerly JO Hambro Investment Management, and James Hambro and Partners, both London-based firms. Assets kept with the two firms are now frozen, according to U.S. court documents. America has been at the forefront of helping Nigeria recover the Abacha loot, saying that hundreds of millions of dollars stolen were laundered through banks under its jurisdiction.

“The beneficiaries of each family trust and the corresponding investments domiciled in London were Mr Bagudu, his wife, seven children, and his brother, Ibrahim.

“In September 2010, according to minutes of some meetings we reviewed, a sum of 99 million euros was moved from Ridley through the Blue PTC in Singapore to the investment accounts in London and distributed as follows:

Blue Holdings (1) (17,007,016 euros): Waverton – seven million euros; James Hambro – 10,007,016 euros.

Blue Holdings (2) (81,841,163 euros): Waverton – 23 million euros; James Hambro – 58,841,163 euros,” the collaborator said.

Between 1998, when the military head of state, Sanni Abacha, suddenly died, and 2020, 3.6 billion U.S. dollars have been reportedly recovered from the Abacha family and their most prolific man Friday, Bagudu.

The 163 million U.S. dollars recovery from Jersey in 2003 directly involved Bagudu, who then negotiated a deal with the U.S. and Jersey to return the funds to Nigeria in exchange for Jersey’s withdrawal of an extradition request and his free return to Nigeria.

Bagudu spent six months in an American federal prison in Houston while awaiting extradition to Jersey.

The deal to return the $163 million was to avoid that extradition. 

Also, the latest recovery – 308 million U.S. dollars from Jersey in 2020 – was laundered by Mr Bagudu.

Mr Bagudu was involved with all the offshore front companies and bank accounts – from the British Virgin Islands to Ireland, Switzerland, England, Guernsey, and Jersey – used to steal and launder billions of dollars belonging to Nigeria under the Abacha regime as a director, signatory on accounts or prime beneficiary, according to U.S. court documents and incorporation filings from the Pandora Papers leaks.

In pushing for the forfeiture of stolen funds laundered through the U.S., American investigators said the criminal network used fraudulent schemes to make dirty money, according to court documents.

One was “security vote fraud,” whereby Mr Abacha and his National Security Adviser Ismaila Gwarzo and others were said to have stolen more than two billion U.S. dollars by “fraudulently and falsely representing that the funds were to be used for national security purposes.” Between 1994 and 1998, they were said to have made over 60 false claims of “security emergencies” to withdraw huge funds from the Central Bank of Nigeria, then headed by Paul Ogumah.

“Rather than use the funds for national security purposes, the stolen money was transported out of Nigeria and deposited into accounts controlled by General Abacha’s associates, including Mohammed Abacha and Mr Bagudu,” the court in Washington, D.C. was told.

Other schemes were bribery and a dramatic conspiracy by Mr Abacha’s son, Mohammed, and Mr Bagudu to lend money stolen from Nigeria back to Nigeria “with zero risks and at an enormous profit” by using proceeds of the security vote fraud to purchase hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. dollar-denominated Nigerian bonds, called Nigerian Par Bonds, NPBs.

In another scheme, the conspirators were also said to have defrauded Nigeria of more than 282 million U.S. dollars by causing the government to repurchase Nigeria’s debt from one of their companies for more than double what Nigeria would have paid to repurchase the debt in the open market.

According to American investigators, the initial funding of Mr Bagudu’s Ridley’s account at Credit Agricole Indosuez, London, to the tune of 90 million U.S. dollars in 1998, was from the Par bonds and the debt-buy-back fraud.

Between the time the Blue structure was created in 2010 and when its assets were frozen in 2014, 4.6 million dollars or 6.8 million euros was disbursed for Mr Bagudu’s children’s education and the “generous” lifestyle his family “was accustomed to”.

The transferred sum included one hundred thousand dollars annuity to his brother Ibrahim and another three million U.S. dollars moved into Ibrahim’s bank account for “investment in real estate and property development in Abuja.”

A breakdown of disbursements showed that 100 thousand U.S. dollars were advised to be paid out for Mr Bagudu’s “son’s school fees” days after Farrer and Co’s Ms Davidson helped him pressure Asiaciti. 

But beyond the role played by British firms in the Bagudu shenanigans, the British public service institution was also involved, documents suggested.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: