Five ‘powerful’ Nigerian politicians, including a current chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and a former Head of State, bought choice properties worth millions of pounds in the UK using proxy companies, investigation has revealed.
The findings by PUNCH follows an earlier investigations by ClampK, a group of anti-corruption campaigners, which revealed 10 multimillion-pound properties owned by Nigerian politicians in the United Kingdom.
A video clip of the findings have been trending on the social media as it was reported by international media organisations, including the BBC, Al Jazeera and AFP.
According to The Punch, the properties were linked to two top lawmakers, one of whom is also a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress; a former military Head of State; a late military Head of State; and a retired senior military officer, who is also a serving government official.
Journalists were able to get the costs of seven out of the 10 properties while the costs of others were not available.
The seven properties are valued at £15,785,000 or approximately N6,345,570,000 (using the Central Bank of Nigeria’s official rate of N402).
Further breakdown shows that the properties are worth: £5, 650, 000; £4,250,000; £2, 900,000; £850,000; £830,000; £820,000 and £485,000, respectively.
The luxury properties were acquired by proxy in order to hide the identities of the true owners.
According to authentic documents seen by journalists, one of the properties linked to an APC chieftain cost £4,250,000 (apart from other rents that had been paid on the grant of the lease).
One of the properties, belonging to one of the “powerful” Nigerians was purchased at the cost of £5, 650, 000 and was paid for on October 4, 2011. Another choice property was acquired by a firm on behalf of a former military Head of State, while yet another property was registered with a company’s name as the owner.
A luxury property at Kensington West Blythe Road, was also linked to one of the powerful Nigerians, and another located in Peterborough was linked to a top lawmaker in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The documents were made available to Punch by HM (Her Majesty’s) Land Registry in London.
Many international anti-corruption campaigners believe that the UK subtly encourages the misuse of public funds.
According to Rachel Davies of Transparency International, there were 40,000 land titles in London owned by companies based in many jurisdictions.
This means that when the properties were bought, the owners didn’t need to have a land registry to reveal who they really were “and so the land registry, the police, and the local residents do not know who they are”.
A source in the diplomatic community in the UK, who pleaded anonymity, also corroborated Davies’ position.
He, however added that though, the UK law enforcement agencies had been “secretive” about their activities; there were reasons to believe that they were “in the process of building a more expansive prosecution against a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani (Alison-Madueke),” who is believed to be under investigation.
But the general belief of anti-graft campaigners is that the UK government had failed to show enough commitment and political will to investigate and expose politically-exposed Nigerians using the foreign country as a haven to hide stolen funds.
“The UK government doesn’t have the resources or the political will to pursue a broad range of investigations into the high-end property holdings of politically-exposed Nigerians or suspected kleptocrats from around the world,” said Matthew Page, a consultant and former Nigeria specialist at the US State Department.
“Government officials may be looking into a handful of the most high-profile examples, but they are doing little to tighten the laws and close the loopholes that help the world’s treasury looters buy posh homes in London.
“Many of us are concerned that the UK government is losing interest in stopping kleptocrats using the country’s property market, corporate structures, and financial system to launder and spend stolen money.
“I suspect UK officials see these kinds of financial activities as a necessary evil, that is, a much-needed alternative source of revenue that will help offset the negative economic and fiscal effects of Brexit.”