By Emma Emeozor
NAMES of some top Nigerians allegedly owning mansions in London have been mentioned in a London newspaper.
This is even as President Muhammadu Buhari visits London tomorrow at the invitation of Prime Minister David Cameron, to participate in a global anti-corruption summit holding at Lancaster House.
The Mail on Sunday named former Governor of Kogi State, the late Prince Abubakar Audu and Chairman and Chief executive Officer of Global Fleet Group, Jimoh Ibrahim as owners of mansions on Bishops Avenue in Hampstead – known as “billionaires’ row” while former Governor of Bayelsa State, the late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, was named as owner of a mansion in West Hampstead. It was not clear if the properties were products of corruption and money laundering.
But the report listed Nigeria as one of the countries worst affected by corruption. Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, while commenting on the global anti-corruption summit, said Britain had been a bolthole for numerous corrupt Nigerians, including former provincial governor James Ibori, jailed for 12 years in 2012 at Southwark Crown Court for money-laundering.
He spoke with Mail on Sunday at the weekend ahead of the summit. “It’s great Mr Cameron is taking this seriously. But Britain isn’t doing as much as it should, in terms of ending the secrecy and making its banks more accountable,” Owasanoye said.
Critics say the British government is not doing much in the fight against embezzlement of public funds and money laundering even as it hosts a global anti-corruption summit. Cameron has been accused of failing to order Britain’s tax-haven colonies to open up books.
According to the report, almost one in ten properties in Kensington, companies registered in such ‘secrecy jurisdictions’ own seven per cent in Westminster and five per cent in the City. It added that more than three-quarters of the owners of such property use offshore secrecy to hide their identities.
The ‘preferred option for concealment’ were British Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories, such as the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Gibraltar and the Caymans, the report added. The Mail on Sunday said it has learned that representatives of dependencies such as the BVI will not attend the summit, while Cameron has ‘no plans’ to force them to make companies registered there obey the same transparency rules as firms registered in Britain.
In Britain, properties bought with dirty money often sit empty for long periods. “Those living nearby have no idea who their neighbours are, undermining any sense of community. Most importantly, those properties are taken off the market, further squeezing housing supply,” the report said. A report last year by the global anti-corruption group Transparency International, based on data supplied by Scotland Yard, revealed that real estate worth more than £180 million has been subject to criminal investigation since 2004.
Yet this represents just one per cent of the proceeds of corruption invested in the UK property market, making the true total £18 billion. It added that more than three-quarters of the owners of such property use offshore secrecy to hide their identities.