By Solomon Aderibigbe
A report has revealed how a former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, set up companies using fronts and hiding it from the public and government in Nigeria.
The report by Premium Times in collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) a nonprofit newsroom and network of journalists centered in Washington, D.C., tagged the Pandora Papers on Monday, as it laid a global entanglement of political power and secretive offshore finances and dealings.
According to the report, the former governor is involved in a number of dealings which comprises money laundering and the establishment of companies with fronts in order to avoid detection by Nigerian authorities.
“Indeed, he has a number of secret business dealings and relationships that he has for years kept to his chest. These are businesses he clandestinely set up and operated overseas, including in notorious tax and secrecy havens in ways that breached Nigerian laws,” the Pandora Papers stated.
In an alleged admission, the report stated that “The former governor admitted that he did not declare these companies and the funds and properties they hold in his asset declaration filings with the Code of Conduct Bureau, the Nigerian government agency that deals with the issues of corruption, conflict of interest, and abuse of office by public servants.
“He said he was unaware that the law expected him to declare assets or companies he jointly owns with his family members or anyone else.”
The report further alleged how Peter Obi established a company — named after his daughter — as a front for his business activities.
“The politician developed an appetite to set up his first discreet company in the British Virgin Island. He named the company Gabriella Investments Limited, after his daughter.
“To set up what has now become a convoluted business structure, Mr Obi first approached Access International, a secrecy enabler in Monaco, France, to help him incorporate an offshore entity in one of the world’s most notorious tax havens noted for providing conduits for wealthy and privileged corrupt political elites to hide stolen cash to avoid the attention of tax authorities,” the report explained.
In his defence, Peter Obi told Premium Times that “The offshore entity is the holding company for most of his assets and that the business structure he adapted was to enable him to avoid excessive taxation.
“I am sure you too will not like to pay inheritance tax if you can avoid it,” he clarified.
The investigation further revealed that these offences “violate sections of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended.”
Nonetheless, the former Governor said “he was more concerned about his U.K. and U.S. schools alumni network, his business and foreign creditors” in response to questions about these alleged shady dealings.