An investigation has exposed the secret businesses of the former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi.
A global investigation has exposed the secret businesses of former governor of Anambra State, South-East Nigeria and Vice Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 general elections, Peter Obi.
The investigation is part of the global International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)-led Pandora Papers project.
The project saw 600 journalists from 150 news organisations worldwide poring through a trove of 11.9 million confidential files, contextualising information, tracking down sources and analysing public records and other documents.
The leaked files were retrieved from offshore services firms worldwide 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 two-year collaboration has so far revealed the financial secrets of not less than 35 current and former world leaders, more than 330 public officials in more than 91 countries and territories.
The confidential documents also feature a global cast of fugitives, convicts, celebrities, football stars and others, including judges, tax officials, spy chiefs and mayors.
Obi is one of the individuals whose project investigated hidden business activities.
The investigation revealed that he has several secret business dealings and relationships that he has for years kept to his chest.
These are businesses that breached Nigerian laws that he secretly set up and operated overseas, including in notorious tax and secrecy havens in ways.
One of the Pandora Papers Investigation collaborators contacted Obi with written questions and had in-person interview weeks ahead of the publication.
Obi admitted that he did not declare these companies and the funds and properties they hold in his asset declaration filings with the Nigerian government agency that deals with the issues of corruption, conflict of interest, and abuse of office by public servants, Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).
Obi has two children – a daughter, Gabriella Nwamaka Frances Obi, and a son, Gregory Peter Oseloka Obi.
Obi was Governor of Anambra state between 2007 and 2014; in 2010, he set up his first discreet company in the British Virgin Islands.
He named the company after his daughter — Gabriella Investments Limited.
Obi, in setting up what has now become a convoluted business structure, first approached Acces International, a secrecy enabler in Monaco, France, to help him 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 Government 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,” the collaborator said.
Obi also 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 Obi.
After extensive documentation, Gabriella Investment Limited was birthed on November 17, 2010, with registration number 1615538.
Though the ultimate control resided with Mr Obi, two figureheads – Antony Janse Van Vuuren and Lance Lawson — were appointed its first directors while
On the same day the company was incorporated, the nominee directors met and issued 50,000 shares of Gabriella Investment in favour of Hill International Holding Corporation, a shell International Business Company operating under the laws of Belize, another tax haven. The director of the company is Mr Van Vuuren, also one of the directors of Gabriella Investment.
Obi has since rearranged his offshore businesses. First, he renamed Gabriella Investment after he left office as Governor of Anambra state.
Beginning February 10, 2017, the company became known as PMGG Investments Limited is a combination of the first letters of the first names of Mr Obi’s nuclear family. P for Peter (ex-governor), M for Margaret (the ex-governor’s wife), G for Gabriella (the ex-governor’s daughter) and G for Gregory (the ex-governor’s son).
Obi has also created a trust known as The Gabriella Settlement; an entity also registered in the BVI.
By the current structuring of Mr Obi’s wealth and offshore businesses, The Gabriella Settlement, which appears to hold all or a majority of his assets, is the sole shareholder of PMGG Investments.
In turn, a New Zealander entity, Granite Trust Company Limited, is the sole trustee of The Gabriella Settlement. Sam Access International, the Monaco-based secrecy enabler Mr Obi first hired in 2010 to set up his offshore structure, was, until August 23, 2019, the sole shareholder of Granite Trust.
“What is, however, clear is that, in 2010, four years after he became governor, the politician or his representatives hired Monaco-based Acces International, where Mr Van Vuuren has been partner and director for 25 years, to help him create a secret and intricate scheme for managing his assets,” the collaborator said.
Van Vuuren, a veteran nominee director for possibly tens or hundreds of shell companies, attended the University of KwaZulu-Natal, where he graduated in 1967 with a Bachelor of Commerce, Accounting and Business Management. He also obtained an MBA from Durham University in 1977.
From Monaco in France to Tortola in the BVI, to Wellington in New Zealand, and Geneva in Switzerland, Mr Van Vuuren has travelled around the world running business errands for Mr Obi and taking major decisions on his behalf.
While Obi stays comfortably behind the curtain, the South African has remained the face of the ex-governor’s companies and the assets they hold.
For the past decade, he has been the politician’s number one business arranger in the offshore world and the custodian of the politician’s business-related documents and correspondences.