A report has revealed how a firm belonging to the “President-elect”, Bola Tinubu’s son bought an $11 million London, United Kingdom mansion in 2017, which President Muhammadu Buhari’s government sought to confiscate as part of a probe into one of the biggest corruption scandals in Nigeria’s history.
In the report by Bloomberg, it was stated that though there is no suggestion that Tinubu was personally involved in the acquisition of the UK property in 2017, President Buhari had visited him (Tinubu) at the London mansion in August 2021, nearly four years after the purchase took place. Tinubu’s son paid $11 million cash for London property Buhari government seized from Diezani ally Kola Aluko.
Corporate documents obtained by the media organisation showed for the first time that Tinubu’s 37-year-old son, Oluwaseyi is the main shareholder of Aranda Overseas Corp., an offshore company that paid £9 million ($10.8 million) to Deutsche Bank for the property in North London in late 2017.
It was revealed that the private three-floor residence in St. John’s Wood, a district favoured by American bankers, is equipped with an eight-car driveway, two gardens, electric gates and a gym. Bloomberg reports that Tinubu’s spokesman and his son, Oluwaseyi did not respond to emails, phone calls and text messages seeking comment on the acquisition of the property.
Similarly, a British lawyer listed as Aranda’s agent in the UK declined to comment citing confidentiality rules.
Seyi Tinubu, son of Nigeria’s president-elect, Bola Tinubu
However, the report noted that at the time Tinubu’s son bought the London property, the Nigerian government was seeking to arrest the house’s former owner, accusing him of going on the run while owing the country an oil-trading debt worth more than $1.5 billion.
The upscale real estate was one of the assets Buhari’s government had sought to confiscate because the properties had been suspected to have been acquired by the businessman, Kolawole Aluko, with the profits of crime. But Aluko denied all allegations of wrongdoing and said that a court judgment earlier this year acquitting a former business partner has cleared his name, but the ruling is being challenged by Nigeria’s anti-graft agency.
Bloomberg reports that while staying at the 7,000-square foot London home in August 2021, Tinubu received a visit from Buhari in the property.
The report recalled that Premium Times, using documents obtained from the Pandora Papers leak of offshore companies data revealed that the shareholders and directors of Aranda from its formation 24 years ago until at least 2010 were the former governor of Osun state, Adegboyega Oyetola, and the head of a Nigerian property group, Elusanmi Eludoyin. Diezani Alison-Madueke, former Minister of Petroleum Petroleum.
However, Oyetola’s spokesman and Eludoyin did not respond to requests for comment. But documents filed this year in response to new anti-money laundering rules in the UK and seen by Bloomberg show that Tinubu’s son, an entrepreneur active in advertising who played a prominent role in his father’s presidential campaign, has been in control of British Virgin Islands-registered Aranda since June 2011. The company was registered as an overseas entity in the UK on January 20, 2011.
It was recalled that early in Buhari’s first term, the Nigerian government initiated legal cases against Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke, and two businessmen, Aluko and Olajide Omokore, who won lucrative contracts during Diezani’s tenure. The US government said in a 2017 forfeiture lawsuit filed in Texas that Aluko and Omokore bribed the former minister by funding her “lavish” lifestyle and failed to pay the state energy company for most of the crude they received.
President Muhammadu Buhari
But Alison-Madueke denied the allegations and has been challenging multiple forfeiture orders issued by Nigerian courts and has accused the anti-corruption agency of blocking her efforts to defend herself in criminal proceedings.
In June 2016, a federal judge in the capital, Abuja, granted a request by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to seize more than a dozen properties that Aluko had acquired in Nigeria and abroad, including the one in St. John’s Wood. That forfeiture order was still in force when Tinubu’s son bought the house out of receivership 16 months later. According to court filings, the ruling was made on an interim basis pending the conclusion of an investigation into Aluko that was still ongoing as of at least the end of 2018.
Aluko’s lawyer Tokunbo Jaiye-Agoro said by email sent to Bloomberg said that he can’t comment on the forfeiture case because it is still “sub-judice.” The report further revealed that Deutsche Bank had foreclosed on the house and appointed receivers to sell it in late 2016, though there is no indication in court filings that the Nigerian government was aware the lender had taken over the house from Aluko as it proceeded with the seizure process. Aluko took out loans using other properties as collateral, according to the US Justice Department. Court filings also showed that the EFCC said the buildings “were suspected to have been purchased with the proceeds of crime” and Aluko “fled the country” to avoid answering the fraud allegations against him.
Former Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke
On the other hand, Omokore was acquitted in February by a Nigerian court of charges related to the same allegations but the EFCC which accused him of defrauding the state energy firm of $1.6 billion has vowed to appeal the ruling.
Meanwhile, the judge removed Aluko and Alison-Madueke from the indictment because they were not in the country and currently, Aluko’s location is unknown.
Aluko’s lawyer, Jaiye-Agoro said that the acquittal of Omokore “puts to rest all the false allegations” about his and Aluko’s wealth, insisting that despite the appeal by the EFCC, “the current state of affairs” is that Aluko’s income was “legitimate and not from any corrupt practice.”
Omokore’s lawyer, Rafiu Lawal-Rabana, said by text message to Bloomberg “objects to the continuous link of his name to any corrupt practices,” noting that the court decision earlier this year discharged Omokore on all counts and any hitches in the implementation of the oil contracts were “purely technical not criminal.”
Meanwhile, Buhari’s spokesman and Alison-Madueke’s lawyer declined to comment on the matter. Also, spokespersons for Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF), Abubakar Malami, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPL) and the EFCC did not respond to requests by Bloomberg for comment.
But in October 2017, as the government that Tinubu played an instrumental role in bringing to power was chasing Aluko and his assets, his son’s company bought one of the targeted properties. The UK land records showed that Aranda still owns the building and there is currently no mortgage registered to it.
The firm didn’t purchase the house directly from Aluko, but from a UK unit of Deutsche Bank AG that held a mortgage on the property and had appointed receivers to sell it a year earlier. Aluko acquired the mansion via a BVI company in 2013 and paid £11.95 million, but Deutsche Bank declined to comment.
Aluko’s lawyer, Jaiye-Agoro said that his client has no knowledge of Aranda or the individuals behind the company and “was not privy to the sale” as the bank had foreclosed on the house, but the UK’s National Crime Agency did not respond to questions about whether it had ever received a request from the Nigerian authorities to freeze the property. The UK Home Office also declined to comment.
Meanwhile, the US Justice Department announced on March 27 this year that it has recovered more than $53 million by confiscating assets bought by Aluko for more than $160 million with what it considers to be the proceeds of corruption including a 65-meter superyacht and luxury homes in California and New York.