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REVEALED: The Men Who Helped Abacha Launder $23 Million Recently Recovered By UK Govt

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The $23.5 million Abacha loot recovered this month by the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) was forfeited by Mohammed Abacha and an offshore company Mecosta Securities Inc., the British agency has told PREMIUM TIMES.

PREMIUM TIMES’ further investigation, based on the NCA’s exclusive disclosure and analysis of leaked financial records and court documents, shows that Mecosta’s account in London, from which the stolen funds were recovered, was controlled by Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu. In the 1990s, Mr. Bagudu worked in the role of an Abacha bagman helping to steal and stash hundreds of millions of dollars across the world.

On May 5, the NCA released a statement disclosing the recovery of “$23,439,724.98 siphoned out of Nigeria in the 1990s” by the Abacha family and associates.

The agency said it acted at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The USDOJ started its civil forfeiture case – and has since obtained forfeiture orders – in the district court in Washington D.C. against stolen Nigerian assets linked to Mr. Abacha. USDOJ told the court the assets were routed through the American jurisdiction and stashed in several other jurisdictions, including the UK, by the Abacha family and associates, most notably Mr. Bagudu.

“The funds form part of a larger pool of monies identified by the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) as having been misappropriated by Abacha and his associates,” the NCA said. It added that it obtained the recovery order after nearly seven years of litigation in the UK to enforce the U.S. forfeiture order related to the recovered funds.

However, the NCA in its statement did not disclose the specific individuals or entities from whom the stolen funds had been recovered.

Recovered from Mohammed and Bagudu’s secret company

PREMIUM TIMES contacted the agency with a request for specific and undisclosed information.

“The monies were recovered from Mohammed Sani Abacha and Mecosta Securities Inc,” said NCA’s communications manager Stuart Hadley in an emailed reply.

PREMIUM TIMES then used leaked financial records such as Pandora Papers and the USDOJ court documents to establish Mr. Bagudu’s association with Mecosta.

The Standard Bank London account of the offshore company Mecosta, registered in the British Virgin Islands on October 9, 1995, was controlled by Mr. Bagudu, who helped Mr. Abacha steal and launder Nigerian monies across jurisdictions with complicated financial transactions, according to leaked financial and U.S. court documents seen by PREMIUM TIMES.

The court documents specifically said that a sum of $21.7 million targeted for forfeiture was held in Mecosta’s account at Standard Bank London controlled by Mr. Bagudu.

Mr. Bagudu, who was twice elected federal lawmaker, has been the governor of Nigeria’s northwestern Kebbi State since 2015 and is an ally of President Muhammadu Buhari.

“Bagudu is an example of how Nigeria’s kleptocratic political class enjoys power and privilege despite their clear and condemnable track record,” commented Mathew Page, a Nigerian governance expert.

Mr. Bagudu has never been charged and enjoys immunity from prosecution in Nigeria while he holds office as governor of a state.

Apart from the Standard Bank, Mr. Bagudu was the authorized signatory on the accounts of Mecosta at other banks such as ANZ, London; Credit Agricole Indosuez London; Goldman Sachs, Zurich, and Banque Baring Brothers in Geneva, according to the U.S. court documents obtained.

It is believed that the $21.7 million stashed in the Mecosta’s Standard Bank London’s account controlled by Mr. Bagudu was the far larger part of the $23.5 million recently recovered by the NCA.

The other part, it is believed based on our review of USDOJ’s court filing and the definite disclosure by the NCA, is $1.6 million in an HSBC account in the name of Mohammed Abacha, the late dictator’s son.

Abacha plunder machine

In the plunder machine that late kleptocrat Mr. Abacha set up, Mr. Bagudu was the most prolific bagman, court documents and leaked financial records revealed.

“Abubakar Atiku Bagudu was an associate of General Abacha and his sons who participated in the conspiracy to steal and launder hundreds of millions of dollars,” American investigators told the court. “Among other things, Bagudu played an instrumental role in setting up and executing the complicated financial transactions used to launder the proceeds of the conspiracy.”

Gov. Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State

Mr. Abacha, his family, and associates systematically plundered Nigeria between 1993 when the dictator seized power and 1998 when he died. In conspiracy with his family and associates, he stole up to $5 billion, according to Transparency International.

According to American investigators, they used false security claims to steal at least $2 billion dollars, which “was transported out of Nigeria and deposited into accounts controlled by General Abacha’s associates, including Mohammed Abacha and Bagudu.”

This was apart from other stolen funds through 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.

Between 1998 and now, more than $3.6 billion dollars has been recovered through international efforts with different tranches linked to Mr. Bagudu alone.

The systematic plunder as well as the worldwide hunt for the stolen funds, worth billions of dollars, is reckoned to be one of the worst cases of kleptocracy and offshore shenanigans in the world.

The $21.7 million in the account of Mecosta at Standard Bank and the $1.6 million held in the name of Mohammed Abacha at HSBC were part of the stolen funds, American investigators said, and are believed to form the $23 million recovered by the NCA based on our analysis.

The NCA said it had transferred the recovered funds to the U.S. with the “ultimate intention” being the repatriation to Nigeria for the benefit of the people in the West African nation.

NCA said it would not answer our question if Nigeria was involved in a tripartite deal over this particular recovery. It also did not disclose the outstanding Abacha-linked assets being targeted for forfeiture in London.

However, PREMIUM TIMES understands from our Pandora Papers investigation that nearly 100 million euros kept in London investments accounts of Mr. Bagudu’s Blue family trusts and holdings are among the outstanding assets.

Mr. Page said the revelations about Mr. Bagudu “suggest he has held unto significant quantities of unexplained wealth accumulated in the Abacha years.”

Mr. Bagudu did not honor our request for his comment on this report, a consistent pattern since we started reporting his link to the Abacha kleptocracy.

Mohammed Abacha also did not reply to a text or answer calls to seek his comment.

Credit: Premium Times

BIG STORY

Ekweremadu Narrates How David, “Kidney Donor” Refused To Return To Nigeria

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The former deputy senate president, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has explained that David Ukpo Nwamini, the would-be kidney donor of his daughter, Sonia refused to return to Nigeria after it was discovered that his kidney was not compatible with his daughter’s.

The Enugu-born federal lawmaker gave the details in a suit filed along with his wife, Beatrice, against the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) over the controversy surrounding the real age of Nwamini.

Ike Ekweremadu and his wife were recently arrested for allegedly bringing a minor to the UK to harvest his organ. They were subsequently remanded in custody till July 7.

However, Ekweremadu had written to the UK high commission to support the visa application of a “kidney donor” for his daughter Sonia.

Although the UK police said the donor was 15, he was listed as 21 years old on his international passport and the Bank Verification Number (BVN) portal.

In a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/984/2022 and filed on June 27 by Adegboyega Awomolo, counsel to the senator and his wife, before Inyang Ekwo, justice of a federal high court in Abuja, the Ekweremadus prayed the court for an order directing the NIMC to supply them with the certified true copy (CTC) of Ukpo’s biodata, The Cable reported.

They also sought an order directing the NIS comptroller-general to supply the applicants with Ukpo’s documents and application form presented for the issuance of his international passport.

The suit is also seeking an order directing Stanbic IBTC Bank and UBA to supply the applicants with the certified true copy of the “mandate card and account opening package of Ukpo’s bank accounts”.

Awomolo, who gave 20 grounds why the prayers should be granted, said Ukpo offered to donate one of his kidneys to the daughter of the applicants if his kidney was compatible.

He said Ukpo informed the applicants that he was 21 years old, after which Ekweremadu supported his visa application to the United Kingdom with a letter to the British high commission in Nigeria, explaining the purpose of the visit.

“After conducting various medical tests, the Royal Free Hospital in London decided that the said David Nwamini Ukpo was not a suitable donor because his kidney is not compatible with that of Sonia Ekweremadu,” he said.

According to Awomolo, Ukpo was then asked to return to Nigeria but rather than do so, he approached the authorities in the UK, claiming he was 15 years old.

“The applicants require documents from the respondents to assist in the fair criminal investigation and as facts in their defense to establish their innocence of the allegation in the charge and to prove that David Nwamini Ukpo is not a minor and indeed consented to the medical examination in the United Kingdom,” he said.

Ekwo fixed July 1 for a hearing of the matter.

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JUST IN: Court Dismisses Kanu’s Application For Revocation Of Bail

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The Abuja division of the Federal High Court has dismissed an application by Nnamdi Kanu, the detained leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), seeking an order discharging the earlier order revoking his bail.

Justice Binta Nyako in her ruling on Tuesday ruled that Kanu has not provided sufficient reasons to warrant the court to set aside its order.

She accordingly dismissed the application for being an abuse of the court process.

In the dismissed application which was filed by his lead counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, Kanu also prayed for an order setting aside the order made on March 28, 2019, directing for his arrest and continuation of his trial in absentia.

Justice Nyako had, on March 28, 2019, revoked the bail Kanu, ordered his arrest, and directed that his trial should continue in his absence.

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CJN Resignation: Public Confidence In Judiciary System At All-Time Low – Olumide Akpata

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Olumide Akpata, president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has reacted to the resignation of Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad as CJN, saying public confidence in the judiciary is currently at “an all-time low”.

In the statement, Akpata thanked the retired CJN for his service to the nation and prayed for his quick recovery.

“In the course of previous publications and communications, I have consistently appreciated the outgone chief justice of Nigeria for the cordial working relationship between the bar and the bench under our respective administrations. I must do so again today as he bows out,” the statement read.

“It is however impossible, to consider his lordship’s retirement in isolation of the recent unprecedented developments at the supreme court where 14 justices of the court censured the outgone chief justice of Nigeria over his lordship’s handling of their welfare and related issues.

“Beyond this, there is near-universal agreement that public confidence in the judiciary and indeed the legal profession is at an all-time low.”

The NBA chairman added that “there is now more than ever the need for urgent reforms in the judiciary and to rebuild the almost dissipated confidence that Nigerians have in the judiciary and the wider legal profession in Nigeria”.

“These should form the immediate first tasks for honorable Mr. Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, who is expected to now take over as the acting chief justice of Nigeria,” he said.

“The NBA welcomes the appointment of honorable Mr. Justice Olukayode Ariwoola and pledges its readiness to work together with his lordship and the judiciary in cleansing the Augean Stable and addressing the ills that have continued to plague not just the Judiciary but the entire legal profession.”

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