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Pandora Papers Reveals How Governor Abubakar Bagudu Amassed Dirty Billions And How He Is Hiding It



Abubakar Bagudu

Pandora papers reveals how governor Abubakar Bagudu amassed soiled billions and the way he’s hiding it, eleven years in the past, Abubakar Bagudu, the present governor of Kebbi State, however then a senator, dispatched a delegation to Singapore looking for a brand new haven to shelter his controversial wealth, which is a goal of ongoing forfeiture proceedings by the USA Division of Justice.

Investigators say the large funds, warehoused offshore, is a part of billions of {dollars} Abubakar Bagudu helped the Sani Abacha household to steal from Nigeria within the Nineties.

Referred by Farrer and Co., a prestigious centuries-old London legislation agency that has represented the British royal household, Abubakar Bagudu’s selection of secrecy supplier in Singapore was Asiaciti Belief, an entity infamous for serving to shoppers conceal behind opaque offshore trusts to launder soiled cash throughout borders.

The Financial Authority of Singapore, MAS, imposed a superb of 1 million and 100 thousand {dollars} on Asiaciti in July 2020 for “severe breaches” of Anti-Cash Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) rules between 2007 and 2018.

When on February 23, 2010, Abubakar Bagudu’s delegation – comprising his brother, Ibrahim Bagudu, and London lawyer, Ben Davies, from Byrne and Companions, now part of PCB Byrne – met with Asiaciti’s officers, they registered his desire for a brand new construction of secrecy to grease the move of his soiled wealth for the advantages of himself and his household.

In 1997, some 13 years earlier, Abubakar Bagudu had structured offshore holdings Ridley Belief and Ridley Group in infamous tax and secrecy havens, Guernsey and the British Virgin Islands, positioning himself because the unseen however final beneficiary. However in 2010, he wished to terminate the Ridley construction and switch his property into one other construction, therefore the necessity for Asiaciti’s service in Singapore.

The rationale, in accordance with a 2010 Asiaciti memo, was management. As famous within the memo, Ibrahim advised the February 2010 assembly that his brother, Abubakar Bagudu – “the shopper” – had develop into “disillusioned” with institutional and unbiased trustees (of the Ridley Belief) as they (he and his brother) had no management over their motion or inaction and recommended they feared they may lose the hidden property.

He then insisted that any new trustee preparations to be erected in Singapore “should be sure that the household can not lose ‘management’ of the property.”

Within the months that adopted, 99 million euros in money and securities was then transferred from Ridley to a brand new construction enabled by Asiaciti, which brushed apart pink flags about Abubakar Bagudu’s controversial background and supply of his wealth. Asiaciti acted with recommendation from Farrer and Co. and Byrne and Companions, now part of PCB Byrne, paperwork confirmed.

Abubakar Bagudu is lengthy identified to have performed an instrumental position within the Abacha conspiracy to steal and launder billions of {dollars} belonging to Nigeria. However how he arrange sophisticated buildings of secrecy to cover stolen cash in addition to the position of his enablers, together with prestigious British legislation companies and Severe Organised Crimes Company (SOCA) the predecessor of the Nationwide Crimes Company (NCA), has by no means been crystal clear.

Abubakar Bagudu

Pandora Papers investigation – led by the Worldwide Consortium of Investigative Journalists, together with greater than 600 journalists, together with some from Press Informant, and about 150 information organisations all over the world – uncovered monetary secrets and techniques, together with these of politicians, former and serving public officers, together with identified and suspected kleptocrats reminiscent of Abubakar Bagudu. Involving 11.9 million leaked data, which journalists sifted by for 2 years, the Pandora Papers challenge is the largest collaborative transnational investigation within the historical past of journalism.

The leaked data got here from 14 offshore companies companies from all over the world who assist shoppers arrange shell firms and design opaque buildings to hide their monetary dealings.


The Abubakar Bagudu Blue construction

As paperwork confirmed, Asiaciti helped Abubakar Bagudu to arrange a multi-layered construction with footprints in at the least three international locations, specifically Singapore, Prepare dinner Islands, and the UK. On the head of the construction is Blue Holdings Belief, registered in Cooks Island as a “goal belief” to “wholly” personal a Singapore-incorporated personal belief firm, Blue PTC Pte Ltd., with Mr Bagudu’s brother, Ibrahim, and an Asiaciti nominee as administrators.

The Blue PTC Pte Ltd is in flip the trustee of two household trusts – Blue Household Belief (1) and Blue Household Belief (2). Below every belief, then, is a Singapore family-owned funding holding firm, FHIC, Blue Holdings (1) Pte Restricted, and Blue Holdings (2) Pte Restricted, respectively.

Every of the FHIC has an funding account with Waverton Funding Administration, previously JO Hambro Funding Administration, and James Hambro and Companions, each London-based companies. Property stored with the 2 companies are actually frozen, in accordance with U.S. courtroom paperwork. America has been on the forefront of serving to Nigeria recuperate the Abacha loot, saying that lots of of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} stolen had been laundered by banks underneath its jurisdiction.

The beneficiaries of every of the household trusts and the corresponding investments domiciled in London had been Abubakar Bagudu, his wife, seven youngsters, and his brother, Ibrahim.


In September 2010, in accordance with minutes of some conferences we reviewed, a sum of 99 million euros was moved from Ridley by the Blue PTC in Singapore to the funding 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.


Supply Of Funds: Abubakar Bagudu and the Abacha plunder machine

The systematic plunder of Nigeria by the Abacha household in addition to the worldwide hunt for the stolen funds, price billions of {dollars}, is reckoned to be one of many worst instances of kleptocracy and offshore shenanigans on the earth.

Between 1998, when Mr Abacha abruptly died, and 2020, 3.6 billion U.S. {dollars} have been recovered from the Abacha household and their most prolific bagman, Abubakar Bagudu, now a governor in Nigeria’s impoverished Kebbi State.

The 163 million U.S. {dollars} restoration from Jersey in 2003 instantly concerned Abubakar Bagudu, who then negotiated a cope with the U.S. and Jersey to return the funds to Nigeria in alternate for Jersey’s withdrawal of an extradition request and his free return to Nigeria. He spent six months in American federal jail in Houston whereas awaiting extradition to Jersey. The deal to return the $163 million was to keep away from that extradition.

Additionally, the most recent restoration – 308 million U.S. {dollars} from Jersey in 2020 – was laundered by Abubakar Bagudu.

Abubakar Bagudu was concerned with all of the offshore entrance firms and financial institution accounts – from the British Virgin Islands to Eire, Switzerland, England, Guernsey, and Jersey – used to steal and launder billions of {dollars} belonging to Nigeria underneath the Abacha regime as a director, signatory on accounts or prime beneficiary, in accordance with U.S. courtroom paperwork and incorporation filings from the Pandora Papers leaks.

In stealing the funds, Mr Abacha arrange what Africa Confidential described as a “Plunder Machine,” involving his household, officers, and associates reminiscent of Abubakar Bagudu, complemented by established western and native banks and offshore enablers.

In pushing for the forfeiture of stolen funds laundered by the U.S., American investigators mentioned the felony community used fraudulent schemes to make soiled cash, in accordance with courtroom paperwork.

One was “safety vote fraud,” whereby Mr Abacha and his Nationwide Safety Adviser Ismaila Gwarzo and others had been mentioned to have stolen greater than two billion U.S. {dollars} by “fraudulently and falsely representing that the funds had been for use for nationwide safety functions.” Between 1994 and 1998, they had been mentioned to have revamped 60 false claims of “safety emergencies” to withdraw enormous funds from the Central Financial institution of Nigeria, then headed by Paul Ogumah.

“Fairly than use the funds for nationwide safety functions, the stolen cash was transported out of Nigeria and deposited into accounts managed by Basic Abacha’s associates, together with Mohammed Abacha and Abubakar Bagudu,” the courtroom in Washington, D.C. was advised.

Different schemes had been bribery and a dramatic conspiracy by Mr Abacha’s son, Mohammed, and Abubakar Bagudu to lend cash stolen from Nigeria again to Nigeria “with zero dangers and at an unlimited revenue” through the use of proceeds of the safety vote fraud to buy lots of of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} of U.S. dollar-denominated Nigerian bonds, referred to as Nigerian Par Bonds, NPBs.

As a part of the Brady Bond programme of the Eighties, the NPBs had been U.S. dollar-denominated securities whose curiosity funds had been assured by the U.S. Treasury. The Brady Bond programme was created to assist creating international locations – like Nigeria – holding substantial debt to restructure their debt into bonds. Nigeria first supplied the NPBs in 1992.

In one other scheme, the conspirators had been additionally mentioned to have defrauded Nigeria of greater than 282 million U.S. {dollars} by inflicting the federal government to repurchase Nigeria’s personal debt from one in every of their firms for greater than double what Nigeria would have paid to repurchase the debt within the open market.

In response to American investigators, the preliminary funding of Abubakar Bagudu’s Ridley’s account at Credit score 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.

The Ridley property had been later transferred to the Blue construction facilitated by Asiaciti and are the excellent defendant property being focused for forfeiture by the USA, courtroom paperwork confirmed.

The U.S. filed its forfeiture litigation in 2014. It mentioned, then, the property held by the Blue holdings, traceable to the outdated Ridley construction, and domiciled in London funding portfolios held with Waverton and James Hambro, had been final valued at a complete of 96 million euros.

Abubakar Bagudu’s brother, Ibrahim, continues to assert the property, in search of to stop their forfeiture to Nigeria, courtroom paperwork confirmed.

In a reply to written questions by The Guardian of UK along with Press Informant and ABC of Australia, Nicola Boulton of PCB Byrne, Abubakar Bagudu’s legal professionals mentioned “all monies held by the Blue Trusts are lawfully held,” citing a 2003 settlement between Abubakar Bagudu and the Nigerian authorities underneath then-President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Abubakar Bagudu is but to reply to additional inquiries despatched to him three weeks in the past as a part of the reporting for this story.

Preserving the Abubakar Bagudu Soiled Cash Flowing – The Enablers

Barely per week after Abubakar Bagudu’s delegation’s preliminary go to to Singapore in February 2010, Asiaciti decided that he “has a considerably controversial background,” making references to his affiliation with the Abacha household and his involvement in “intensive litigation between 2000 and 2006, each felony investigations and civil claims,” Asiaciti’s inner memo confirmed.

Regardless of this willpower, in addition to the attention that Abubakar Bagudu’s had since 2003 admitted to monetary irregularities as he agreed to return about 163 million US {dollars} to Nigeria to keep away from extradition to Jersey from the U.S., Asiaciti accepted Abubakar Bagudu as a shopper in 2010.

The Financial Authority of Singapore, MAS, slammed Asiaciti with a superb of 1 million and 100 thousand {dollars} in 2020 for the corporate’s anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing failures between 2007 and 2018, protecting the interval the corporate helped Abubakar Bagudu arrange the Blue construction to shelter property mentioned to have been made out of the plunder of Nigeria.

“We keep a powerful compliance programme and every of our places of work have handed third-party audits for Anti-Cash Laundering & Counter-Financing of Terrorism practices lately,” Asiaciti mentioned in a written reply to ICIJ over the Pandora Papers. “Nonetheless, no compliance programme is infallible – and when a difficulty is recognized, we take crucial steps with regard to the shopper engagement and make the suitable notifications to regulatory companies.”

In defending its position, when questioned by authorities following the unsealing of the indictment in opposition to Abubakar Bagudu by the U.S. in 2014, Asiaciti mentioned, “Farrer & Co, a prestigious London legislation agency, who acts for the Royal Household had accepted the reasons offered and was ready to behave for him, having strict UK CDD necessities.” This was contained in a defence Asiaciti wrote to the regulator.

Certainly, as paperwork confirmed, between Byrne and Farrer and Co., Asiaciti was suggested that Abubakar Bagudu wouldn’t be a problematic shopper and that the funds he sought to shelter weren’t derived from felony sources. That turned out to be false.

In an April 2010 memo to press for the acceptance of Abubakar Bagudu as a shopper, Bernard O’Sullivan of Byrne mentioned there have been no excellent claims to Abubakar Bagudu’s property and that, in 2003, Nigeria, then led by President Olusegun Obasanjo, reached a “world settlement” with Mr Bagudu.

The settlement Mr O’Sullivan referred to was that which was executed when Abubakar Bagudu agreed to return about 163 million U.S. {dollars} to Nigeria in 2003. Mr O’Sullivan hooked up a duplicate of an August 8, 2003, confidential assertion by Mr Obasanjo to withdraw all claims from felony and civil proceedings in opposition to Abubakar Bagudu.

This defence was restated in Byrne’s reply following Pandora Papers reporting. Abubakar Bagudu reached a compromise with the FRN (Nigeria) in 2003 by which all claims in opposition to him and his household had been ended and the FRN obtained money and sure rights,” Byrne’s Mr Boulton mentioned.

Mr Obasanjo, who entered the settlement settlement with Abubakar Bagudu, couldn’t be reached to remark for this story as he was mentioned to be travelling in Ethiopia. However sources near him mentioned it was a “pragmatic step” by the administration that was then determined to recuperate stolen funds and that believed Abubakar Bagudu might assist disclose the place the funds had been stashed. In return, Obasanjo then signed the settlement ending all claims, globally, in opposition to Abubakar Bagudu.

Mr Boulton mentioned Abubakar Bagudu helped Nigeria recuperate at the least one billion {dollars} following Mr Abacha’s loss of life.

As paperwork recommend, between the time the Blue construction was created in 2010 and when its property had been frozen in 2014, 4.6 million {dollars} or $6.8 million euros was disbursed for Abubakar Bagudu’s youngsters’s schooling and the “beneficiant” life-style his household “was accustomed to”.

The transferred sum included 100 thousand {dollars} annuity to his brother Ibrahim and one other three million U.S. {dollars} moved into Ibrahim’s checking account for “funding in actual property and property improvement in Abuja.”

In a single case in 2013, Farrer and Co helped Abubakar Bagudu guarantee funds had been distributed to his household and resisted Asiaciti’s “stage of scrutiny”, an try at enhanced due diligence.

In an e mail, Diana Davidson of Farrer and Co. wrote that Abubakar Bagudu’s brother Ibrahim was “not solely comfortable on the stage of scrutiny being sought on the sole discretion of Asiaciti”.

In response, an Asiaciti’s shopper companies official mentioned they had been “on no account inferring that the distribution requests are suspicious in any method,” and reminded Ms Davidson that Abubakar Bagudu was a politically uncovered individual, PEP, thus the transfers he sought required enhanced due diligence.

A breakdown of disbursements confirmed that 100 thousand U.S. {dollars} had been suggested to be paid out for Abubakar Bagudu’s “son’s college charges” days after Farrer and Co’s Ms Davidson helped him stress Asiaciti.

However past the position performed by British companies within the Abubakar Bagudu shenanigans, the British public service establishment was additionally concerned, paperwork recommended.

In a witness assertion in 2015, Asiaciti mentioned Farrer and Co and Byrne & Companions obtained consent from the UK’s Severe Organised Crime Company, SOCA, now the Nationwide Crimes Company (NCA), to facilitate the restructuring of Abubakar Bagudu’s offshore holdings in 2010.

“A protecting disclosure was made to SOCA within the UK and their consent was obtained to the resettlement of the Ridley Belief into the Blue Household Trusts earlier than funds had been transferred from Ridley Group Restricted to Blue Holdings 1 Pte. Ltd and Blue Holdings 2 Pte. Ltd,” Asiaciti’s Karen Hanlong submitted.