Former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi has recalled his stint as governor and before he was governor of Anambra State.
THE VENT REPUBLIC reports that Obi, the People’s Democratic Party Vice-Presidential Candidate in the 2019 general elections in an interview with Media Executive, Mr. Tochukwu Ezeoke was responding to a question on his possible indictment in the Pandora papers.
The Pandora Papers project, a part of the global International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), had accused Obi of having several secret business dealings and relationships including some he clandestinely set up and operated overseas, including in notorious tax and secrecy havens in ways that breached Nigerian laws.
In the report, the ex-governor had allegedly set up his first discreet company in the British Virgin Island, while naming it Gabriella Investments Limited, after his daughter.
To set up what has now become a convoluted business structure, Obi allegedly approached Acces International, a secrecy enabler in Monaco, France, to incorporate an offshore entity in one of the world’s most notorious tax havens noted for providing conduits for wealthy and privileged corrupt political elites to hide stolen cash to avoid the attention of tax authorities.
Tax havens are politically and economically stable offshore jurisdictions or countries with extensive laws and systems that provide little or no tax obligations, but enable high secrecy and privacy protection for foreign individuals and businesses.
Obi was said to have paid Acces International to provide nominee directors for the company. Nominee directors are residents of tax havens paid to sit on boards of companies to hide the identities of real owners of offshore firms.
So, after accepting a brief from the then governor or his representatives, Acces International officials headed to the British Virgin Island, a notorious tax haven, where it contracted a local registered agent – Aleman Cordero Galindo & Lee Trust (BVI) Limited (Alcogal) — to set up Gabriella Investments Limited for Mr. Obi.
In the interview with Njenje Media and monitored by THE VENT REPUBLIC, Mr. Obi denied any wrong doing while noting that he never funded the company as governor.
In his words:
“When you have a situation like this, I use myself as an example, Peter Obi’s name is mentioned, what you need to do is to invite Peter Obi for an explanation of why he is mentioned in so so and so. Like in my own case, I lived in the UK from 1990 until I became the governor of Anambra State, and from 1992 to 1993, on the advice of Lyolds Bank (I still have the documents of advice), we started an investment company in one of the Lois subsidiaries on their own planning. So what we were doing was investing small savings of ours in that Investment Company, as well as some of the borrowed monies, was invested in different investments portfolios. When I became governor in 2006, what I did was convert that into (of course it became a trust company), it is clear in Nigeria that as a public office holder, you are not allowed to operate a foreign account, that law I must say those who have formulated it, they don’t put into the account or envisage a Nigerian living in the foreign country coming to work in Nigeria. The law if I would say thinking about those who formulated this is about Nigerians going to open a foreign account when you are here.”
He further justified his actions when he said:
“However, the law was also clear, it didn’t say throw away everything you have overseas because you are coming back, otherwise we would have sold our properties. So as at that time, I clearly own, fully paid three houses in the UK and these were houses in a good area of the country, and this trust was formulated, that is it. It continued until it was mentioned, so for me, it is a very simple thing, you go and say like I have mentioned before, if you go into this trust, from the day I became governor till date, there was no single investment into this trust, nothing. So it remained what it is there. Just like there is no new property bought since then till date.”
He bemoaned the method of investigation in Nigeria, where aspersions are cast on people even without hearing their side of the story.
“So it’s for you to ask questions, it’s for you to know what to do, these are the ways to knock, for you to investigate. What is lacking in Nigeria, is that lot of people sit down and say this man was governor from here to this, when we talk about corruption when we talk about mismanagement of resources, it’s strictly and that is why we don’t mention corruption very well, it is strictly what you do with entrusted public power and resources because that is what is critical. By the time you say I am the chairman of Fidelity or anything, I was managing an entrusted public asset, as at the time I was governor, I am entrusted with public assets.”
Peter Obi further advised the Nigerian authorities on what should be their focus in the investigation of corrupt practices.
“Your investigation should be on this, how was it managed? My brother, let me tell you, no thief, no thief, I repeat three times, no thief or somebody who is not a person of integrity would see what he can steal and leave it. That is why when you go to church, they will tell you to mind your phone because the thief that came to church actually came to worship but if he sees the opportunity to steal, he will still do it. I left 156 million dollars and over 40 billion naira, I invested over 20 billion in investment, I had the opportunity to convert that money into anything and it won’t be there, it’s as simple as ABC. I still say in the whole of Africa, not even in Nigeria, no state has done that quantum of savings. I can go on and on. So if you must get what I did for 8 years or find anybody who says he was sitting down with Peter to say, do this or do this is sick. But the company I ran while I was living in the UK is there, I can show you evidence that this company receives an overdraft of over 7 million dollars from Lois Bank. If you live in the UK, I am sorry to use this, if you are a black man, you are a suspect, if you are a Nigerian, you are a double suspect, so for me to live in the UK where Lois Bank gives me 7 million dollars, on a normal day, actually my name *should be submitted for sainthood* because living in the UK as a black is not an easy thing. I lived there, although it’s getting better now.”
“When you hear this happened, investigate the person based on where he was entrusted with public power and public resources.”
On if he has been invited by the Nigerian authorities over the indictment, he said:
“Of course, several of them have contacted me but I also feel persecuted and trying to ruin my business because rather than ask me how I governed the state, how I was Chairman of a bank, people are interested of, how did you live in the UK, how did Lyolds Bank work with you, how did you buy a house in 1997. For God’s sake in 1997, I didn’t have any public, I was virtually going to be asked now, how did you marry your wife, No, let us limit ourselves to where people should be interested in serving his people. I was entrusted the resources of Anambra State from March 2006 to March 2014, go and investigate it. I left it, I had the best road network, I won the Bill Gates prize for health, I had the best prize in education, I won the MDG, the best-performing state in MDG, I was invited to speak on MDG in the United States of my experience, I can go on and on and on and say what we did and then we left money, we were in the right direction”, he said.