In 2015, Pope Francis, like some of his predecessors, visited the ancient city of Pompeii in Southern Italy: not to visit the ruins buried by the ashes of Mount Vesuvius, but to extoll the wonders of the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary, founded in the XIX century by a former Satanist “priest,” now on his way to sainthood.
Blessed Bartolo Longo is regarded as the founder of modern Pompeii, a town that grew East of the famous ruins in 1891, after he commissioned the building of the city’s shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Holy Rosary.
The shrine is home to a miraculous image of Our Lady of the Rosary, which was given to Longo by his confessor, Father Alberto Radente, in 1875.
Originally born into a devout Roman Catholic family, Longo fell away from his faith while studying law in Naples in the 1860s – a time when the Catholic Church faced opposition from a nationalist movement fighting for Italian unification, and which viewed the then Papal States and the Pope himself as an antagonist to their cause. Most of the main leaders of the “Unification” movement were Free Masons and held strong anti-Catholic ideas.
The Catholic Church was also fighting against the growing popularity of involvement in the Occult, which at that time had a strong presence in Naples.
Longo himself became involved in a Satanist cult, and eventually claimed to have been “ordained” as a Satanist “priest.”
However, after struggling with anxiety and depression, at times even suicidal thoughts, over the next few years, a university professor from his hometown urged Longo to abandon Satanism and introduced him to his future confessor, Fr. Radente.
Under Fr. Radente’s guidance Longo began praying the rosary and converted back to the Catholicism of his chidlhood.
He developed a great devotion to the rosary, and became a third order Dominican in 1871, working to restore the faith of the people in Pompeii by promoting a renewed devotion to the rosary.
The image of Our Lady of the Rosary at Pompeii portrays Mary seated on a throne holding the child Jesus and handing a rosary to St. Dominic and St. Catherine of Siena – two of the most emblematic Dominicans – who are standing at her feet.
Originally an old, worn-out painting belonging to the Rosariello Convent in Naples, the image was delivered to Longo by way of a cart, which in those days were used to transport manure.
A few months after he received the image of Our Lady of the Rosary given to him by Fr. Radente, miracles started to happen.
The first miracle took place the same day Longo exposed the image to the public after scrounging funds for its restoration when 12-year-old Clorinda Lucarelli was completely healed of epileptic seizures, after being deemed incurable by several doctors.
The Marian shrine became popular beyond the region, and started attracting tens of thousands Italians during the year.
Pope Paul VI crowned the image in St. Peter’s Basilica, and was later completely restored by the Vatican Museums in 2012.
Longo died in Pompeii in 1926, and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980. He is known as the “Apostle of the Rosary.” His last words were: “My only desire is to see Mary who saved me and who will save me from the clutches of Satan.”
Pope Francis visited the shrine in 2015, becoming the third time a Pope has stopped to pray, the first being St. John Paul II in 1979, followed by Benedict XVI in 2008.
Pope Francis said on Thursday that he plans to declare St. Irenaeus of Lyon a Doctor of the Church with the title “Doctor unitatis,” meaning “Doctor of Unity.”
The pope made the announcement in a speech to the St. Irenaeus Working Group, a group of Catholic and Orthodox theologians who conducted a study together on synodality and primacy.
“Your patron, St. Irenaeus of Lyon — whom soon I will willingly declare a Doctor of the Church with the title Doctor unitatis — came from the East, exercised his episcopal ministry in the West, and was a great spiritual and theological bridge between Eastern and Western Christians,” Pope Francis said on Oct. 7.
St. Irenaeus was a second-century bishop and writer revered by both Catholics and Orthodox Christians and known for refuting the heresies of Gnosticism with a defense of both Christ’s humanity and divinity.
The U.S. bishops voted last year in favor of having St. Irenaeus named a Doctor of the Church at the request of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the then archbishop of Lyon, southern France, and sent their approval to the Vatican for the pope’s consideration.
Pope Francis previously declared St. Gregory of Narek, a 10th-century Armenian monk, a Doctor of the Church in 2015.
Benedict XVI named Sts. John of Avila and Hildegard of Bingen as Doctors of the Church in 2012.
Seventeen of the 36 figures declared Doctors of the Church by the Catholic Church lived before the Great Schism of 1054 and are also revered by Orthodox Christians.
St. Irenaeus would be the first martyr to be receive the title.
“His name, Irenaeus, contains the word ‘peace,’” Pope Francis said. “We know that the Lord’s peace is not a ‘negotiated’ peace, the fruit of agreements meant to safeguard interests, but a peace that reconciles, that brings together in unity. That is the peace of Jesus.”
Exorcists identify 3 categories of activity that open a person to demonic possession
Exorcists are in general agreement as to how a person becomes possessed by demons. As one exorcist says, “The darkness is there, waiting to receive an invitation.”
Exorcists identify three categories of activities and experiences that open a person to demonic possession. We can think of these categories as doors for demonic attacks: they invite demons in, but they do not always result in possession. In fact, as we shall see, full-fledged demonic possession may be extremely rare—depending upon whose opinion we accept.
The first category is referred to as patterns of sin. This does not mean simply being a sinner, since all of us are sinners. Rather, this refers to people who have a habit of serious sin that they like, are attached to, and have no desire or intention of stopping. There is a conscious decision to give one’s self over to the sin. Demons can see this as an invitation to their activity.
The second category of influences that invite demons into one’s life is the occult. Occult practices include Satanism, the use of tarot cards and the Ouija board, and consulting psychics and mediums. This also includes necromancy, the attempt to consult with spirits of the dead for the sake of learning hidden knowledge or future events.
Being a victim of trauma or abuse is a third category of experience that can open the door to demonic possession. The trauma may be witnessing a murder, suicide, or horrific accident; the abuse may be sexual, physical, or psychological. One exorcist explains that those who go through these experiences can end up living in the dark emotions of anger, rage, resentment, and revenge. He stressed the importance of such victims getting the psychological and spiritual help that they need, in order to have some degree of healing. If they do not, those emotions can weaken their relationship with God, and simultaneously be an opening to a relationship with evil spirits.
According to the Rite of Exorcism, the exorcist should command demons to reveal whether they are held or detained in the possessed individual by means of magicam, aut malefica signa, vel instrumenta. English versions of the rite usually translate this phrase as necromancy, or evil signs, or amulets, though the word magicam may also be translated as magic. In regard to the malefica insturmenta, an evil instrument or amulet, the exorcist should order the possessed individual to reveal any cursed objects he may have concealed on (or in, if swallowed) his person. An object that is cursed in some way is not inherently evil, but the devil might be more likely to use it for his evil purposes.
Marvel over the humble cucumber with these 18 health benefits, which range from keeping your body cool and hydrated to helping prevent diseases such as diabetes.
Eat them raw and you get a juicy crunch. Cucumbers, however, do more than just serve as a refreshing feature of salads, sandwiches, slaws, pickles, noodles, cocktails and more. This popular produce pick, a member of the Cucurbitaceae family along with melon, squash and pumpkins, has been used in traditional medicine since ancient times for its unnumbered health benefits.
Cucumber is rich in polyphenols and cucurbitacins, plant compounds that are known to be antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, anti-hyperglycemic, diuretic, antimicrobial and analgesic, to name a few.[i] Here are 18 of its valued medicinal wonders.
18 Health Benefits of Cucumber
1.Keeps you hydrated. Cucumber is approximately 96% water, so it can be particularly effective at promoting hydration and helps you meet your daily fluid intake needs.[ii]
2.Useful for weight loss. Each half-cup serving of cucumber offers just 7.8 calories.[iii]In an analysis, consuming high-water, low-calorie foods was linked to a significant reduction in body weight.[iv]
3.Eases osteoarthritis pain. In a study, using 10 milligrams (mg) of an aqueous extract of cucumber twice daily proved effective in reducing pain related to moderate knee osteoarthritis and can be used to address knee pain, stiffness and physical functions related to the condition.[v]
Osteoarthritis, caused by wear and tear on the joints, presently has no known cure and is conventionally managed through high doses of painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs that often come with side effects.
4.Helps treat liver damage. Heat-treated cucumber juice showed a significant protective benefit on alcohol detoxification among animal subjects, suggesting a potential use in treating liver injury due to excess alcohol consumption.[vi]
5. May lower blood sugar. A number of animal studies show that cucumber may effectively reduce and control blood sugar levels.[vii] Another study induced diabetes in animal subjects, provided them with cucumber peel extract and found that the peel reversed most of the changes associated with diabetes, causing a reduction in blood sugar.[viii]
6. Acts as a skin whitener. An active component in cucumber leaves may have an inhibitory effect on melanin production and is a potentially useful skin whitening agent.[ix]
7. Anticancer effects. The aqueous extract of cucumber contains bioactive compounds that exert anticancer activity.[x] “Our conclusion supports additional in-depth study of this pharmacologic activity as a malignant tumor agent,” wrote the researchers.
8. Promotes regular bowel movement. Cucumbers are water-rich and help prevent dehydration, a major risk factor for constipation. Staying properly hydrated can improve stool consistency as well as regularity.[xi] The seeds, while having a cooling effect on the body, are used to prevent constipation.[xii]
9. Soothes skin. Cucumber is known for its soothing effect on skin irritations and its ability to reduce swelling.[xiii] It also has the power to alleviate pain from sunburn.
10. Helps prevent wrinkles. A clinical trial showed that cucumber juice can be an effective skin care ingredient as it helps prevent wrinkles by restoring the natural elasticity of skin.[xiv]
11.Potent anti-inflammatory. An iminosugar amino acid in cucumber, called idoBR1, may function as an anti-inflammatory agent and its importance in the diet therefore warrants further investigation, according to a 2020 study.[xv]
12.Supports bone health. A half-cup serving provides 8.53 µg of vitamin K.[xvi] Based on a review of the current literature, supplementing with vitamin K1 (the type found in cucumbers) and K2 can reduce the incidence of fractures among postmenopausal women.[xvii]
13. Serves as a natural eye mask. Research suggests that applying cucumber to your eyes can impart a cooling effect on skin, hydrate the eyes and surrounding areas and help reduce dark circles due to its vitamin K levels.[xviii]
14. Supports cardiovascular health. Cucurbitacins in cucumber may prevent atherosclerosis, on top of tested effectiveness against inflammation, cancer and diabetes.[xix]
15. Slashes mortality risk. Beta-carotene, found abundantly in cucumber, is an important pro-vitamin A carotenoid. A meta-analysis showed that dietary or circulating beta-carotene was inversely associated with risk of all-cause mortality, citing the possibility of extending human lifespan.[xx]
16. Helps combat prostate cancer. Cucurbitacin B, a naturally occurring compound in cucumber and other vegetables, significantly and specifically inhibited prostate cancer cell growth.[xxi]
17. Protects against diabetes complications. In a study, cucumber was able to prevent oxidative stress and carbonyl stress, considered a safe and suitable way to protect against the complications typically observed in diabetes.[xxii]
“What the hell is an encyclical?” Who the heck asked such a question? Hint: the person who did the asking was a Catholic, a Democrat, and a candidate for president. That narrows things down more than a bit. Hmmm. . .might it have been John Kennedy or Joe Biden? No and no. The answer is Al Smith, the first Catholic to be nominated to run for president by one of the two major political parties in all of American history.
The year was 1928. Then serving his fourth term as Governor of New York, Smith was a decided underdog in his race against Republican candidate Herbert Hoover. More—or less—than that, he was also a frustrated underdog; hence his exasperation and his question.
That question was no doubt evidence of a measure of ignorance on the part of this Catholic layman. But it was also indirect evidence of his operating assumption: independence of mind; namely, that one could be a loyal American, a faithful Catholic, and a good Democrat all in one—and all without reading the latest words of the Pope.
Nonetheless, Smith was under attack for his Catholicism. Would his first loyalty be to his country or to his Church? Governor Smith could anticipate no problems. He wouldn’t take orders from anyone, including the Vatican. He wouldn’t oppose Church teaching, but he did oppose public aid to private schools, including Catholic parish schools. He was simply a professional politician, who made no pretense of being so much as even an amateur theologian.
According to Frances Perkins, a Smith ally and later FDR’s Secretary of Labor, the governor knew little about Catholic theology and “didn’t care much about it.” He was prepared to be judged on his record, including his support for the repeal of Prohibition, and not on his knowledge of this or that papal encyclical.
Whether Smith lost to Hoover primarily or secondarily because of his Catholicism will likely never be established with complete certainty. But down to defeat he went, carrying only eight states totaling a meager 87 electoral votes. Six of the eight states in the Democratic column were states of the Old Confederacy. Each was solidly Democratic and just as solidly Baptist. In all likelihood, Smith would have lost had he been a mainline Protestant. General prosperity defeated him more than anything else. Still, his 41% of the popular vote bettered the performances of the two previous Democratic nominees.
Prohibition was certainly not an issue that reached encyclical status. In fact, many prominent Catholics could be found on either side of this divide. For example, St. Paul Archbishop John Ireland had supported a ban on both booze and saloons because he thought that both retarded the assimilation of immigrants. Smith saw great value in assimilation—with or without saloons.
Three decades would pass before another Catholic would make a serious run for the presidency. That, of course, would result in John Kennedy’s narrow victory in 1960. Once again, the Democratic nominee was an ethnic Catholic. (Smith was actually a mix of Irish, Italian, and German ethnicity.) Like Smith, Kennedy was a skilled politician devoid of theological concerns or interests. Unlike Smith, Kennedy was something less than a faithful Catholic and not exactly an observant one.
Still, there were those same nagging concerns about the candidate’s ultimate loyalty. Those concerns were expressed by a broad cross section of Americans, including mainline Protestant leaders, such as Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, as well as Democratic party veterans, including Eleanor Roosevelt, and not a few liberal intellectuals.
In fact, Kennedy aide and historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. publicly labeled anti-Catholicism as the “anti-Semitism of the intellectuals” before going on to classify anti-Catholic sentiment as the “last acceptable prejudice.”
Governor Oyetola, a relative of Mr Tinubu, may have sabotaged his own country by buying the exotic property as Nigeria made to seize it.
IT was a meeting of two of Nigeria’s most influential politicians in London – President Muhammadu Buhari was visiting political kingmaker and National Leader of his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu.
In July, the presidency announced that Mr Buhari was heading to London for an education summit. The office also added that the president would also see his doctors for “medical check-up”.
Coincidentally, Mr Tinubu, who had travelled to London earlier, was also receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment in the British capital. So, a perfect setting for both men to meet was created.
Media handlers of the two men later flooded social media with photos of both of them having what seemed like a jovial conversation in a London house. Another photo of both men standing, with their face masks drawn underneath their chins, was also shared.
“President Muhammadu Buhari this evening in London, the United Kingdom, visited Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu,” Bashir Ahmad, one of Mr Buhari’s media aides, captioned the photos on Facebook on August 12.
Certainly, it was not the first time both men were meeting, and photos of their encounter were released to the public. However, on this occasion, the release of their photographs angered many Nigerians.
Many called out the two politicians for releasing photos of themselves on medical tourism while doctors in public hospitals in the country were on strike.
But what most Nigerians did not know was that the property at which the duo met is linked to one of the biggest corruption scandals in the country since Mr Buhari became president in 2015.
A PREMIUM TIMES investigation has now revealed that the mansion where Mr Tinubu welcomed President Buhari is not only embroiled in a multi-billion fraud scandal, the Buhari government had actually secured a freezing order on the property from a Federal High Court before the previous owner, who is now an international fugitive, sold it at a huge discount to an offshore company owned by the governor of Osun State, Gboyega Oyetola, a known proxy and a relative of Mr Tinubu.
This revelation emerged as part of the ongoing global Pandora Papers reporting project, led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and in which PREMIUM TIMES is a key participant.
The project involved 600 journalists from 150 news organisations around the world sorting and analysing a trove of almost 12 million confidential files, tracking down and interviewing sources, and adding context using public records and documents.
The leaked files were retrieved from some offshore services firms around the world that set up shell companies and other offshore entities for clients, many of them influential politicians, businesspersons, and criminals seeking to conceal their financial dealings.
The Mansion at 32 Grove End Road, London
The property, which is situated at 32 Grove End Road, in the wealthy Westminster neighbourhood of London, has become a sort of mecca to associates of Mr Tinubu and politicians of the ruling APC, after the former Lagos governor started staying there for what appears to be recuperation.
Apart from Mr Buhari, other politicians who have visited Mr Tinubu at the expanse 6,975 sq ft property are the governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu; a former governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun; Mr Amosun’s successor, Dapo Abiodun; the governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi; the governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu; members of the Lagos State House of Assembly; the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; a contingent from Kano State led by Governor Abdullahi Ganduje; top fuji musician; Wasiu Ayinde, among other dignitaries.
The 32 Grove End Road villa exudes stunning opulence. According to an advert brochure of the property released by popular United Kingdom real estate company, Savills, the estate is made up of two buildings – a five-bedroom property with a formal reception, a study, a master bedroom with an en suite dressing room, bathroom and a cinema suite with a balcony overlooking the rear garden. Two of the other four bedrooms in the property are en suite.
The second building on the estate is a self-contained two-bedroom flat which is built above the property’s double length garage. The property comes with a gym, two guest cloakrooms, a carriage driveway that can park up to eight cars, and front and rear gardens, and an electric gate.
Bought from a fugitive at a £3 million discount
Documents obtained from the UK property register revealed that in July 2013, the property with title number 340992, was bought for £11.95 million by Zavlil Holdings Ltd, a shell company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, a notorious tax haven. Further documents obtained by PREMIUM TIMES revealed that Zavlil Holdings Limited is owned by Kolawole Aluko, an international fugitive wanted by law enforcement agencies in Nigeria and the United States for money laundering.
Kola Aluko and his associate, Jide Omokore, were indicted in the U.S. and Nigeria for multi-million-dollar fraud and money laundering violations allegedly in collusion with a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
In 2016, the Federal Government of Nigeria filed a Mareva injunction at a Federal High Court in Lagos seeking to confiscate a list of properties belonging to Messrs Aluko and Omokore valued at $1.8 billion.
A Mareva injunction is a court order which freezes the assets of a defendant pending the outcome of litigation.
In the suit against Messrs Omokore and Aluko, alongside their companies, Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Nigeria Limited and Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited, the Nigerian government asked the court to grant it seven orders to prevent the accused from disposing of the assets. The government alleged they were acquired through fraudulent means.
The third prayer the government made to the court was to grant it an order restraining the accused “from giving any instruction, demanding, accepting, receiving payments and/or transacting, transferring, mortgaging or howsoever dealing in any manner with assets of the Defendants in both houses and land in Abuja and Lagos and others located outside Nigeria.”
The government then listed 17 properties in Abuja, Lagos, the U.S., Canada, Dubai, Switzerland, and the UK.
Pandora Papers: Inside the secret offshore companies, London properties of Nigerian Ports Authority chief, Bello-Koko
The reason Mr Bello-Koko did not acquire the London assets in his own name instead of hiding behind shell companies is unknown.
THE acting Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority, Mohammed Bello-Koko, is involved in offshore shenanigans, hiding behind two shell companies incorporated in a tax and secrecy haven to anonymously invest in the United Kingdom property market and potentially violating Nigeria’s public service code of conduct laws, the ongoing Pandora Papers reporting has revealed.
Mr Bello-Koko is possibly hoping to be confirmed the substantive NPA chief by President Muhammadu Buhari. The current substantive head of the agency, Hadiza Bala-Usman remains on suspicion following her disagreement with Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi. It’s unclear if she would be recalled with a probe of her tenure seemingly unending.
Mr Bello-Koko, with his wife, Agatha Anne Koko, enlisted the services of financial secrecy seller, Cook Worldwide and Alemán, Cordero, Galindo & Lee (Alcogal), an offshore law firm, to secretly register Coulwood Limited (reg. number: 1487897) and Marney Limited (reg. number: 1487944) in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), one of the world’s most commonly used tax havens, in 2008. Both companies were registered the same day, June 19, 2008.
However, Mr Bello-Koko remains a director of the two companies even as a public servant in violation of Nigeria’s Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act (Sections 5 and 6). The regulators in the BVI also had his companies under watch for suspected money laundering, a problem Alcogal appeared to have helped him avoid with some misinformation provided to the regulators.
The revelations came from Pandora Papers, a trove of 11.9 million leaked confidential records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, ICIJ. The ICIJ then coordinated a team of 617 journalists from 150 news outlets, including those from PREMIUM TIMES, to dive into the data. The reporters spent two years sifting through the leaked records, tracking down sources, and digging into court files and other public records from dozens of countries. It is the biggest collaboration of investigative journalists – from 117 countries and territories – in history.
The leaked records came from 14 offshore services firms from around the world that set up shell companies and other offshore nooks for clients like Mr Bello-Koko, who seek to shroud their financial activities, often suspicious, in secrecy.
Using the two companies, Coulwood Limited and Marney Limited, tucked away offshore, Mr Bello-Koko then anonymously acquired five London properties, Pandora Papers, and public records from the UK Land Registry showed, based on collaborative research by PREMIUM TIMES and Finance Uncovered of London within the larger Pandora Papers project.
One of the properties was acquired in May 2017, after Mr Bello-Koko had taken office at the NPA. He was appointed executive director for finance and administration in 2016 and later acting MD in 2021.
The other four properties were acquired between 2009 and 2012, making Mr Bello-Koko potentially exploit UK tax loopholes that allowed the owning of UK properties using so-called envelope structure, that is, anonymously owning properties through offshore companies.
For instance, up to 2012, when former Finance Minister, George Osborne, declared new rules, owning property via an offshore company meant that ownership could be transferred by selling the company’s shares rather than the property itself, and in doing so, no U.K. property sale tax or capital gains tax would be paid.
Mr Bello-Koko is a former banker with responsibility for managing accounts of energy firms at the defunct FSB International Bank and later Zenith Bank, where he managed Rivers States government accounts in Nigeria’s oil-abundant Niger Delta region.
Although shell companies have been a key feature in illicit financial flow and are used to facilitate drug deals and terrorism financing, owning one is not necessarily illegal and can be for legitimate purposes.
In Mr Bello-Koko’s case, having the shell companies at the time he did as a private-sector worker was not, on the face of it, criminal under Nigerian law.
Experts, however, say shell companies are frequently used to conceal assets and avoid or evade taxes. They are also used by players in corruption high-risk sectors such as banking, government contracting, petroleum, and real estate to facilitate the flow of dirty money, sometimes for shadowy political patrons.
PREMIUM TIMES and Finance Uncovered sent Mr Bello-Koko a written request for comment. For weeks, he declined to explain his acquisition of the properties and provide evidence that he declared them in his Code of Conduct fillings, in accordance with the law. He also declined to provide clarity on why he remained director of the offshore company while a public office holder in Nigeria, in violation of the law.
However, if he did not declare the BVI shell companies or any of the properties they hold, that would be a violation of Nigeria’s code of conduct law for public officials, which requires the declaration of “all” assets and liabilities owned by a person, their spouse and unmarried children under 18 “immediately” after taking office.
Indeed, even after becoming a public official, Mr Bello-Koko secretly acquired another property, bringing his London property portfolio to five in 2017.
The London properties
Mr Bello-Koko was introduced to Cook Worldwide by Yemi Edun, the British-Nigerian behind Daniel Ford, who has helped several other Nigerians, including politically exposed persons, PEPs, to facilitate the creation of shell companies which are in turn used to secretly invest in the UK property market.
A number of Nigerian-linked shell companies facilitated by Daniel Ford, a London property firm, were also used to own other London properties, PREMIUM TIMES-Finance Uncovered investigation showed.
Mr Bello-Koko first used Marney Limited to acquire Flat 2, Liberty Court, 141, Great North Way, London NW4 1PR with an FBN UK mortgage, on October 20, 2009, and, then on July 23, 2012, 62, Manton Road, Enfield, London EN3 6XZ mortgage-free (with cash). Both properties cost 275,000 pounds and 280,000 pounds, respectively, when they were acquired.
Using the second company, Coulwood Limited, Mr Bello-Koko also bought three other London properties, namely 62 Corner Mead, Hendon, (NW9 5RD) on November 25, 2008; 37 Redlands Road, Enfield (EN3 5HN) on August 16, 2011; and 14, Faraday House, Aurora Gardens, London (SW11 8ED) on May 3, 2017.
He paid 205,000 pounds for the 2011 Enfield property, and 235,000 pounds for the 2008 Hendon property. which he sold, according to records, in May 2017 for 350,000 pounds.
For the third, the 2017 Aurora Garden property, he paid 475,000 pounds, being his largest single investment in the UK property market. This was acquired after his NPA appointment.
Analysis of the investments shows that between 2008 and 2012, four years before Mr Bello-Koko joined the NPA, he had spent on four London properties a sum of 995,000 pounds, an equivalent of 293 million Naira at the 2015 exchange rate of 294 Naira to a pound.
The reason Mr Bello-Koko did not acquire the London assets in his own name instead of hiding behind shell companies is unknown. His sources of funds for the investments are also not known. He did not reply to written questions emailed to him weeks ahead of this publication.
Helped by enablers to avoid money laundering investigation
Mr Bello-Koko’s Marney Limited and Coulwood Limited were among nine companies apparently placed under watch by the Financial Investigation Agency (FIA), the regulator in the British Virgin Islands. On January 20, 2017, FIA sought information about the affected companies, owned by Nigerians, Panamanians, and Russians from their registered agent, Alcogal, documents showed.
On January 27, 2017, the pieces of information requested by FIA, including identities of the beneficial owners, directors, and shareholders with their passports and permanent residence information, were sent via a letter signed by Alcogal’s money laundering reporting officer, Blondell Challenger.
Of all the nine companies, only Marney and Couldwood have the same persons – Mr Bello-Koko and his wife Agatha – as directors, shareholders, and ultimate beneficial owners, Alcogal told FIA.
Alcogal then told FIA that the nine companies “do not have any bank accounts or assets held in their name.” But this claim is contradicted by our findings – and at least for Mr Bello-Koko’s Marney and Coulwood, Alcogal only misled the FIA. As we found from UK Land Registry, Mr Bello-Koko and his wife own four London properties at the time of the correspondence in January 2017 and the fifth was added in May of that year.
In the correspondence, Alcogal indicated that they had requested “updated due diligence documentation” from the clients and that they would seize to be a registered agent of any of the clients that did not comply.
Mr Bello-Koko apparently complied. In a March 30, 2017 correspondence, Alcogal sent “updated KYC (Know Your Customer) documents” for Coulwood and Marney, attaching Mr Bello-Koko’s Nigerian passport information page and reference letter from the First Bank (UK) Limited.
The First Bank’s letter dated March 27, 2017, and addressed to Alcogal described Mr Bello-Koko and his wife as “valued client of our Bank since 2010” and added that “they have always demonstrated a high degree of integrity and capability.” The bank mentioned the couple’s Port-Harcourt-Nigeria address.
First Bank and Alcogal failed to provide to BVI authorities information on Mr Bello-Koko’s true identity as a Nigerian public servant and therefore a politically exposed person. They also failed to disclose that his companies Marney and Couldwood own London properties. That way, he was able to stave off a possible investigation of the source of bis money. It was an example of how enablers, including banks and law firms, impede the work of regulators tracking illicit or suspicious financial activities.
Two months after, in May 2017, he bought his fifth anonymous London property.
A document suggests that Alcogal leaked information to Mr Bello-Koko that his companies were under investigation for money laundering and then Alcogal itself came under investigation of the FIA for the leak.
We saw an Alcogal spreadsheet called “Registry of Inquiries – Financial Investigation Agency Control BVI -FIA 2017” With regards to Mr Bello-Koko’s Marney Limited and Coulwood Limited and six other companies, the sheet recorded the nature of the FIA’s inquiry as “tipping off offence”.
In the offshore industry, tipping off is a criminal offence committed when a person knows or suspects that a money-laundering investigation is being conducted into a client and leaks information to the client or someone close to them.
Despite the document, which was described to it, Alcogal, in an emailed statement to our partner Finance Uncovered, denied it was ever investigated for a tipping-off offence.
Alcogal said it would not respond in detail “under a duty of confidentiality to its clients.”Offshore
If you’re in the leadership space, it’s hard not to notice the ongoing debate over remote working versus getting everyone to return to the office. While every industry and organization has to decide for themselves what’s the best approach to take for everyone involved, there’s been a number of key points that are glaringly missing from these discussions.
In this latest edition of my Leadership Espresso Shot series, I wanted to address one of these, namely what kind of workplace environment are you nurturing through your leadership? Is it one that’s driving future success or is it one moored in pushing mediocrity?
“Through this last 18 months, we all sort of learned work is something we do, it’s not a place.”
Right now, unfortunately, a lot of the discussion around remote work is focusing on work being about where and when, instead of what and why. I hope you’ll check out this episode to discover why this approach will lead to mediocrity instead of the long-term success we all hope to achieve through our efforts as leaders.