NIGERIA’S former aviation minister Senator Stella Oduah has been unveiled as one of those politicians who secretly acquired four properties in London during her tenure in office according to the recently-released Pandora Papers.
One of the biggest leaks of financial documents in the world, Pandora Papers, has revealed that one of the properties is said to be in her name, two were bought through her Nigerian-incorporated firm and another was secretly acquired through her Seychelles offshore company. According to investigation led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, made up of more than 600 members, Senator Oduah’s International Trading and Logistics Company Limited (ITCL) was incorporated in Seychelles, a commonly used secrecy and tax haven.
Apparently, she reportedly used the company to acquire the four London properties worth a total of £6.7m between October 2012 and August 2013. At the time, Senator Oduah was a minister in the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan when she served as aviation minister between 2011 and 2014.
In 2014, Senator Oduah was fired over massive corruption scandal. She was indicted by two panels, which probed the purchase of two bullet-proof cars for N225m by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, an agency under her supervision, in violation of Nigeria’s public procurement and appropriation laws.
According to the UK Land Registry records, on October 19, 2012, ITCL bought a house at 23 St Edmunds Terrace, London, NW8 7QA for £5.3m. Then, in the following year, 2013, between August 6 and 15, three more properties were bought in the name of ITCL.
They included Flat 2, 7 Devonshire Terrace, London, W2 3DN, bought on or around 06/08/2013 for £378,000. Others were top floor flat, 89 Brondesbury Villas, London, NW6 6AG, bought: on or around 12/08/2013 for £369,000 and fourth floor flat, 19 Warrington Crescent, London, W9 1ED, bought on or around 15/08/2013 for £680,000.
A report into the matter read: “Records show that none of the four properties was bought with mortgage financing, meaning Ms Oduah secretly routed £6.7m through her offshore company to anonymously effect the acquisitions. Ms Oduah’s houses are among the 234 UK properties our collaborative investigation showed were anonymously acquired by offshore companies, with Nigerians as ultimate beneficial owners.
“The investigation exposed the hidden identities of the true owners of the properties bought in the so-called envelope structure that offers confidentiality benefits, which in the case of Nigeria public servants like Ms Oduah, mean a way of blocking the Code of Conduct Bureau from knowing undeclared assets.”
Before her acquisition of the above four properties, Senator Oduah had bought in her own name, on March 8, 2006, Apartment 209, Cavendish House, 31 Monck Street, London SW1P 2AS for £700,000. On September 14, 2012, about one month before the purchase of the £5.3m Edmund Terrace property, SPGCL wired $71,973 bank transfer to Daniel Ford & Co, a UK property agency commonly used by Nigerian business and political elites investing in the UK property market anonymously, according to a leaked suspicious activity report submitted by Deutsche Bank to the US financial intelligence agency FinCEN.
Deutsche Bank had helped facilitate the US dollar transfer, acting as a correspondent bank. Reporting that Senator Oduah is the owner of SPGCL in its suspicious activity report, Deutsche Bank reportedly said it suspected the payment to Daniel Ford was money laundering.
Meanwhile, as she used ITCL Seychelles, Senator Oduah also invested in the UK property market through ITCL Nigeria while serving as a minister. On July 12, 2011, just days after her assumption of office as aviation minister, she used ITCL Nigeria to buy Flats 303 and 306 Grant House, 90 Liberty Street, London SW9 0BZ for £475,000 each.
Senator Oduah currently represents Anambra North at the senate, the upper chamber of Nigeria’s National Assembly. She recently defected to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in August this year.