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Pandora Papers: New Law In United Kingdom To Stop Money Laundering, Secret Acquisition Of Property By Nigerians, Others

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According to BBC, any anonymous foreign company seeking to buy UK land or property will need to reveal the true owners.

Anew law in the United Kingdom is requiring offshore companies investing in its property market to declare their beneficial owners, promising to reverse London’s notoriety for allowing the flow of suspicious funds into its real estate through offshore shell companies.

According to BBC, any anonymous foreign company seeking to buy UK land or property will need to reveal the true owners.

Foreign companies that refuse to disclose their true owner could face fines of up to £2,500 per day or up to five years in prison.

The register comes amid economic sanctions in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Foreign organisations who already own land in the UK will have a six-month period to register their beneficial owners or managing officers.

Business Minister Lord Callanan said, “We have been clear that the UK is a place for legitimate business only, and to ensure we are free of corrupt elites with suspicious wealth, we need to know who owns what.”

The register was part of the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill in February 2022, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The bill proposes that anyone setting up, running, owning or controlling a company in the UK to verify their identity with Companies House, a government agency, as well as giving Companies House the power to challenge suspicious information.

The register applies to property bought since January 1999 in England and Wales, and since December 2014 in Scotland.

Labour MP Margaret Hodge said the government needed to go further to tackle money laundering.

“To truly stop the flows of corrupt wealth into our housing market, the government must urgently put in place an open register of the true owners of UK land and property, not just of those owned by companies,” she said.

“Anything less would demonstrate once and for all that this government is truly soft on dirty money.”

Any overseas body that has disposed of property since 28 February 2022 – when the legislation for the register was first announced – will be required to provide a statement to Companies House.

Multi-million-pound country manors in the south of England and luxury flats in London’s most expensive areas are among the homes which have been linked to Vladimir Putin’s regime and associates.

Before the new provision, which came into force this month, individuals could launder suspicious funds through notorious secrecy and tax havens and hide behind shell companies incorporated in those havens to anonymously buy properties in the UK, especially in London, PREMIUM TIMES reports.

Mohammed Bello-Koko, the chief executive of the Nigerian Ports of Authority; Gboyega Oyetola, Osun State governor; Stella Oduah, a senator and former minister; and Stella Ogene, a jurist were all exposed to have used suspicious funds to buy real estate through offshore shell companies.

They hid behind shell companies secretly incorporated in tax havens to anonymously acquire London properties, thereby evading enhanced due diligence in the UK and blocking the Code of Conduct Bureau in Nigeria to determine their true worth or if they had amassed wealth their legitimate incomes could not justify.

In February 2018, it was reported that Transparency International UK had listed two London houses suspected to be owned by then-Nigerian Senate President, Bukola Saraki for investigation under Britain’s new law, Unexplained Wealth Orders.

TI said Land Registry documents showed the houses at 7 and 8 Whittaker Street, Belgravia, London were owned by Landfield International Developments Limited and Renocon Property Development Limited.

Based on market estimates by Zoopla, the properties were worth a combined total of around £15 million.

According to data released as part of the Panama Papers, the companies were controlled by Toyin Saraki, the wife of the former Nigerian Senate President, as well as one of his personal aides. At the time of the revelations, none of the offshore holdings were reported in Saraki’s official asset declarations.

Previous public disclosures by Saraki indicated he had high levels of unexplained wealth, Transparency International said.

In 2003, his asset declaration showed he had amassed tens of millions of pounds worth of assets during his time as director of Société Générale Bank and Special Assistant to the President on Budget.

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Between Gov. Hope Uzodimma And Imo Hoteliers…….

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Governor Hope Uzodimma has prevented the proposed strike by the Imo Hoteliers Association.

The strike was scheduled to commence on Tuesday but the Chairman of the association, Mr. Chima Chukwunyere announced in Owerri that the strike has been suspended.

Chukwunyere said that the proposed strike was suspended after due consultations with Gov. Uzodimma.

According to him, Uzodimma promised to personally intervene to solve all the outstanding issues raised by the association.

“The governor condemned the actions of sealing and looting of the hotels illegally and directed that no ministry should use consultants in revenue collection.

” He promised to convene a meeting of the executives of the Imo Internal Revenue Service and those of the Nigeria Hotel Association, Imo chapter, to harmonize the demand notice issued to the hoteliers.“

Chukwunyere said that the governor also advised members to pay taxes to enable the Imo government to function and serve the state better.

The association on Sept. 10 threatened to embark on strike over alleged multiple taxations, illegal sealing of hotels, and unprofessional conduct of revenue collectors.

 

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Despite his “expulsion”, ADC presidential candidate, Kachikwu, makes INEC list

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Mr Kachikwu was expelled from the party last Friday by the Ralph Nwosu-led NWC.

The embattled presidential candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Dumebi Kachikwu, has been named among candidates validly nominated by political parties for the 2023 presidential election despite his “expulsion” from the party.

Mr Kachikwu was among the 18 presidential candidates approved by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Tuesday.

The Ralph Nwosu-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the party announced the expulsion of Mr Kachikwu from the party last Friday for alleged anti-party activities.

He was expelled along with seven other key party leaders following the recommendation of a seven-member disciplinary committee earlier set up by the ADC NWC. The NWC had earlier on 2 September placed the presidential candidate on suspension.

Mr Nwosu, in a statement issued late Friday, said the disciplinary committee found Mr Kachikwu guilty of allegations of gross misconduct, and gross violations of its constitution, among others.

But in its reaction the following day, the interim leadership of the ADC dismissed Mr Kachikwu’s purported expulsion.

The interim National Chairman of the Party, Patricia Akwashiki, in a statement, described the action of the erstwhile chairman, Mr Nwosu, as the antics of a sinking man clutching at straws.

The crisis rocking the ADC has its genesis in the call for the resignation of the national chairman by 27 state chairmen of the party, having spent 17 years in the office.

At the time of filing this report, we could not confirm if the party’s leadership had made formal or legal requests to the commission to remove the candidate from the list.

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Stella Obasanjo’s brother, John Abebe, arraigned for fraud

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Dr. John Abebe, the younger brother of a former First Lady, Stella Obasanjo, was on Monday arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Monday before the Lagos State Special Offences Court in Ikeja over allegations of fraud.

Abebe was arraigned alongside a former Head of Firstbank Plc, United Kingdom Correspondent Office, Kamoru Alade Oladimeji, before Justice Olubunmi Abike-Fadipe on six charges of conspiracy, stealing, and obtaining money under pretence.

Part of the counts against the defendants read: “That you, Dr. John Abebe and Kamoru Alade Oladimeji, on or about the 4th day of June 2013 in Lagos within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court conspired amongst yourselves to commit felony to wit; stealing the sum of N120 million worth of property of Arsenal Technologies Limited.”

“That you, Dr. John Abebe and Kamoru Alade Oladimeji, on or about the 4th day of June 2013, in Lagos within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court conspired amongst yourselves to commit felony to wit; obtaining by false pretence the sum of N120 million property of Arsenal Technologies Limited under the pretence that your property lying being and situate at 9, Magbon Close, Ikoyi-Lagos State, which you pledged as the security to the Arsenal Technologies Limited was unencumbered, which representation you knew to be false.”

“That you Dr. John Abebe and Inducon Nigeria Limited, on or about the 4th day of June 2013, in Lagos within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, with intent to defraud and to gain for yourself the sum of $1,000,000.00 or its Naira equivalent from Arsenal Technologies Limited by false pretence to procure the execution of valuable security to wit; a deed of assignment between Inducon Nigeria Limited and Arsenal Technologies Limited, wherein you falsely claimed that the property lying being and situate at No. 9, Magbon Close, Ikoyi-Lagos was unencumbered and that you have full powers to assign and transfer the said property to the assignor; Arsenal Technologies Limited.

According to EFCC, the offences committed are contrary to Sections 280(1), (12), 8 (7), 285(1) and 278(1)(b) of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State, 2011.

The defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Following their plea, the prosecutor, Sulaimon urged the court to fix a trial date and to remand the defendants in the custody of the Nigerian Correctional Services until the hearing and determination of the charge.

However, the defense counsel, Anthony Popo and Sam Etaifo urged the court to grant their clients bail in the most liberal terms.

While moving the bail application on behalf of Abebe, Popo told the judge that the matter before her is a commercial transaction between the first defendant and the nominal complainant, which he is ready to settle out of court.

He also claimed that Abebe had paid back the sums of $100,000 and N30 million to the complainant and had also deposited the title document of 26 acres of land and the documents of a property in London to show his seriousness to resolve the matter.

The lawyer further submitted that the defendant would not jump bail since he never violated the terms of the administrative bail granted to him by the EFCC.

The prosecutor did not oppose the application but urged the court to impose stringent terms that will ensure the defendant’s appearance in court for their trial.

In her ruling, Justice Abike-Fadipe granted the first defendant bail in the sum of N20 million with one surety in like sum.

She directed that the surety must be a resident of Lagos and must deposit the title document of a land property whose value must not be less than N20m

The judge also admitted the second defendant to bail in the sum of N10m with one surety in like sum, who must be a resident of the state.

Justice Abike-Fadipe further ordered that the defendant shall continue to enjoy the administrative bail earlier granted to them by the EFCC but if they failed after seven days to perfect the terms of the bail she granted them, they shall be arrested and remanded in prison.

She adjourned the case to December 6 for commencement of trial.

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