Gboyega Oyetola, Governor of Osun State, bought a mansion in London, the British capital, which the Federal Government attempted to seize from an international fugitive for Bola Tinubu, the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Pandora Papers have revealed.
Oyetola, a former chief of staff to ex-Osun State governor, Rauf Aregbesola, was implicated following the revelation of the leaked files, which is one of the biggest leaks of financial documents globally.
The Pandora Papers investigation featured more than 600 journalists in 117 countries, including a Nigerian online newspaper, Premium Times, trawling almost 12 million documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) that reveal hidden wealth, tax avoidance and, in some cases, money laundering by some of the world’s rich and powerful.
According to Premium Times, the property, which is situated at 32 Grove End Road, in the wealthy Westminster neighbourhood of London, the house was sold for £9 million to Aranda Overseas Corporation, an offshore company incorporated in the British Virgins Island by two of Tinubu’s most trusted surrogates – Oyetola and Elusanmi Eludoyin, the governor’s successor at Paragon, in 2017.
The property is made up of two buildings – a five-bedroom property with a formal reception, a study, a master bedroom with an en suite dressing room, a bathroom and a cinema suite with a balcony overlooking the rear garden. Two of the other four bedrooms in the property are en suite, said the online newspaper, quoting an advert brochure of the property released by popular United Kingdom real estate company, Savills.
The second building on the estate is a self-contained two-bedroom flat which is built above the property’s double length garage. The property comes with a gym, two guest cloakrooms, a carriage driveway that can park up to eight cars, and front and rear gardens, and an electric gate.
The building, the report said, was initially purchased for £11.95 million by Zavlil Holdings Ltd, a shell company incorporated by Kolawole Aluko and his associate, Jide Omokore, in the British Virgin Islands, a notorious tax haven.
However, Aluko is currently on the run after being indicted by law enforcement agencies in Nigeria and the United States for collusion of alleged money laundering alongside Diezani Alison-Madueke, a former minister of petroleum resources.
The Federal Government of Nigeria had in 2016 subsequently filed a Mareva injunction at a Federal High Court in Lagos seeking to confiscate a list of properties belonging to Messrs Aluko and Omokore valued at $1.8 billion.
The government listed 17 properties in Abuja, Lagos, the U.S., Canada, Dubai, Switzerland, and the UK, with “Grove End Road, London” listed as one of the properties to be confiscated.
But just as the Nigerian court dismissed the defendant’s attempt to dismiss the injunction, Aluko had secretly sold the luxurious property at a discount of £9 million to Oyetola’s offshore company around October 2017, the newspaper quoted documents obtained from the U.K. property register as showing.
According to the report, the property was worth approximately £17 million as of the time it was sold to Oyetola’s company, following a calculation of the likely value of the property on the website of UK’s National Building Society.
Yet, it was at this same property that Tinubu received President Muhammadu Buhari – whose government filed an injunction to confiscate it – on 12 August. Another top-ranking official at the Federal level, Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives; as well as other federal legislators, state governors and APC members have visited the former Lagos State governor at the contentious residence where he is “recuperating” from an undisclosed ailment.
Premium Times reports that Oyetola bought the mansion for Tinubu using his offshore company, Aranda Overseas Corporation, while serving as a public officer (Chief of Staff to Osun Governor), thereby violating Section 6 of Nigeria’s Code of Conduct Bureau Act.
As an appointed government official, Oyetola was not expected to operate foreign-owned companies and should have resigned his position with such a company, the report stated. It noted that there was no record that he resigned from the management of the company even as he served as chief of staff to his predecessor.
He also ran another shelf company in the British Virgin Islands, Global Investments Offshore Limited while as Argebesola’s COS and only resigned in June 2018, months before he became governor. He subsequently made his children – Rukayat Oyetola, Hafiz Oyetola, and Rasheedat Oyetola – directors and also transferred his shares in Global Investments Offshore Limited to his partner, Eludoyin, and his son, Haifz.
The motive of Oyetola to purchase a property his country was pushing to confiscate due to well-known corruption allegations against its then-owner is also in question, according to the newspaper.
The online newspaper said Oyetola ignored multiple requests for him to comment on the story. In the same vein, the spokespersons for Tinubu and President Buhari declined to make any comment.