A former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Abubakar Lawal Yar’Adua, bought a posh house worth £890,000 in London using a secret offshore company he registered in the British Virgin Island.
Documents retrieved from the Mossack Fonseca, exclusively obtained by a German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) with PREMIUM TIMES and other media organisations around the world, showed the offshore company to be Hydrocarbon Assets Investments Limited.
Mr. Yar’Adua bought the house in 2008 while serving as the Group Managing Director of NNPC.
He became NNPC GMD in August 2007 and was removed from office in January 2009.
In April 2008, eight months after he became the GMD of NNPC, Mr. Yar’Adua used a London residence address at Beechwood Hall, Regents Park Road, London N3 3AT to register an offshore company, Hydrocarbon Assets Investments Limited in the British Virgin Island.
British Virgin Island is a tax haven favoured by corrupt public officials, money launderers, celebrities and businessmen dealing in illicit finance.
Mr. Yar’Adua, while serving as a public official violated Section 6(b) of the Code of Conduct Act, which says a public office holder shall not, “except where he is not employed on a full‐time basis, engage or participate in the management or running of any private business, profession or trade.”
To cover his track, Mr. Yar’Adua prepared a corporate smokescreen by appointing two front companies to act as directors of Hydrocarbon Assets Investments Limited.
Documents sighted by PREMIUM TIMES showed that on November 7, 2008, Mr. Yar’Adua was sole director of Hydrocarbon Assets Investments Limited.
He resigned on the said day but appointed two companies, Gudson Limited and Roselle Limited as directors of his company.
Additional documents scooped from the Mossack Fonseca files exposed how Mr. Yar’Adua utilized his Hydrocarbon Assets Investments Limited to secure a loan from Dexia Private Bank Limited in Jersey.
This he used to purchase a property worth £890,000 in London. Dexia Private Jersey Limited, Hydrocarbon Assets Investment Limited, and Mr. Yar’Adua signed the loan agreement on November 18, 2008.
It was effected on December 2, 2008.
The property, until now a secret, is located in a freehold estate at 28A North Crescent, Finchley, London N3 3LL. It was registered under the title number NGL624398. A freehold property refers to outright ownership of a property and land on which it stands. The owner of the land has no time limit to his period of ownership.
Reinstated as director and signatory to account
Following his exit from NNPC, Mr. Yar’Adua returned to Hydrocarbon to reclaim his position from the two directors holding the fort for him.
In 2010, the two Directors, J. Nizbeth Maduro, representing Gudson Limited and Bryan Scatliff,e representing Roselle Limited returned the power of attorney to Mr. Yar’Adua, who soon became the authorized signatory to a bank account moved from Jersey to Luxembourg within the same bank, Dexia Banque International A Luxembourg.
A meeting of the Board of Directors of Hydrocarbon Assets Investments Limited was held in August 2010 at the Registered Office of the Company, Akara Building, Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands.
Three resolutions were reached, one of which was “to grant as is at this moment granted a Power of Attorney in favour of Lawal Abubakar Yar’Adua of passport No. A01418738 of 28a North Crescent, London N3 to act in accordance with the powers described on the page annexed hereto’.
The meeting also “resolved to approve and authorize Mr. Lawal Abubakar Yar’Adua of 28a North Crescent, London N3 to be authorized signatory on the account to act individually and to sign all the documents and account opening forms in connection with the account with Dexia Banque International A Luxembourg.”
I didn’t know what I did was wrong
When Mr. Yar’Adua was contacted, he initially claimed his lawyer registered the company on his behalf, but later admitted he was incorporating the company to buy a house in London.
He suggested that PREMIUM TIMES’ report on the matter was an attempt to embarrass him.
“This is just an attempt to embarrass me,” Mr. Yar’Adua said on telephone. “My children were there (London) and instead of paying rent, somebody advised me that I could get a loan, and then I decided to take a mortgage so that when my children finished schooling I could sell it off, I didn’t know the implication.”
When asked why, as a public office holder, he registered a secret company, and owned a foreign account in violation of the law; Mr. Yar’Adua said he was unaware that it was wrong for Nigerian public servant to take those actions.
“Honestly, I was not aware,” he said. “Go ahead and embarrass me.”
Mr. Yar’Adua and the Code of Conduct
By his action, the former NNPC boss may have violated Nigeria’s Code of Conduct law and could be arraigned before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, a special court that tries public officers for any contravention of the Code of Conduct for Nigerian public officers as spelt out in the Fifth Schedule of the Nigerian constitution.
The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) were established to enforce “a high standard of morality in the conduct of government business, and to ensure that the actions and behaviour of public officers conform to the highest standards of public morality and accountability.”
The former official could be charged for failing to declare the company and its associated assets and for operating foreign accounts while being a public officer.
The offences violate sections of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended.