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.