The International Criminal Police Organisation otherwise known as Interpol is combing through a series of international financial transactions by Nigeria’s Sahara Energy Resource Limited and others from Nigeria in recent years to establish if they were cases of money laundering.
Sahara Energy of Sahara Group, founded in 1996, is owned by Tonye Cole, Tope Shonubi, and Ade Odunsi.
Of late, the global coalition of anti-crime organisations has beamed its searchlight on some Nigerian individuals and corporates after series of discrete scrutiny of some transnational financial transactions.
However, the radar of Interpol is now at Sahara Energy Resource Limited, SERL, in which cross-border financial transactions for 2016 were said to have raised concerns within the global network of anti-crime agencies.
Although, in May 2016, officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, raided the Lagos and Abuja offices of Sahara Energy carting away several computers and documentary evidence of financial deals, according to Naija247news sources at the anti-graft agency.
Sources confirmed that Mamman Daura, President Mohammadu Buhari’s nephew, and late Chief of Staff Abba Kyari halted the probe of Sahara Energy, a company believed to have skimmed over $400million from oil deals during the Allison Madueke era.
Interpol sources said in 2016 alone SERL moved over $40 billion mainly from its Bank account at 7A Fowler Road, Off Kingsway Road
, Ikoyi, Lagos to an address in Isle of Man, a self-governing British Crown dependency island notorious as a safe haven for laundered money. The monies were wired to No. 12-14 Finch Road
, Douglas, Isle of Man. Another bank, was also marginally involved in the transfers.
Insider sources said officials of the global Intelligence organisation were alarmed at the frequency of the transactions and the staggering amounts within just one calendar year. Their curiosity was said to have been further triggered by the choice of the Isle of Man, known for being the choice destination for laundered money and which featured prominently in the Panama Papers saga, a corruption chronicle by the International Consortium of Investigative Reporters, ICIR.
Sahara Energy’s Financial documents from 2015 to 2019 in our possession corroborated the findings of the global investigators.
In 2016 alone, the Bank Account Number 1979738 of Sahara Energy was unusually busy with frequent movement of money in billions and millions of dollars.
For instance, on March 29, 2016, two transactions in the sum of $6,665,072,631.85 (marked as repayment for Principal on loan) converted at the rate of N198.5 and $306,203,434.15 were wired from its Bank Fowler Road, Ikoyi account to 12-14 Finch Road
, Douglas, Isle of Man which was identified as the address of BNP Paribas, a French international bank with a presence in about 72 countries and ranked 8th
largest bank in the world in terms of assets.
Two days later, on March 31, 2016, another $15,452,551.73 was wired to the same address. The account got busier.
On April 5, 2016, the sum of $1,798,543,775.32 (converted at N198.009 exchange rate) was wired to the Isle of Man. On the same day, another $10,718,063 was wired to the same account.
The following day, April 6, 2016, at least four transfers were made to Isle of Man thus: $791,718,353.70; $54,007,948.34; $133,473,109.71 and $38,344,073.01 at N199.19 exchange rate. Two weeks later, precisely on April 21, 2016, $388,305,555.72 converted at the rate of N198.010 was wired to the same address.
On April 26, 2016, at least four transferred were made to same address as follows: $23,250,500.66; $28,127,846.40; $76,312,728.66; and $263,124,609.79 all at same N199.29 exchange rate.
Wired transactions executed in May 2016 include: $1,548,441,655.96 on May 4, 2016.
May 6, 2016 witnessed transfer of $37,790,674.82; $592,140, 000; $11,513,834.65; and $13,169,043.59.
In June 2016, the account got busier with more transfers. June 1, 2016 alone witnessed a least nine wire transactions including $1,114,053,133.97; $83,666,710.23; $61,777,137.38; $83,666,710.23; another $1,114,053,133.97; and another $83,666,710.23 among others.
The wire transfer continued all through the month of June through to December at an alarming frequency which was said to have made the global intelligence cartel wondering. No fewer than eight wire transfers were made in August from the same Access Bank account to the same address in Isle of Man.
November and December 2016, the SERL Access Bank account was especially busy.
On December 29
, the sum of $2,776,054,916.25 was wired to the Isle of Man. Next day, December 30, 2016 no fewer than eight transfers were made including: $1,153,286,136.10; $610,000,000.00; another $610,000,000.00; and $104,563,115.83.
Sahara Energy also did several transfers in high Millions to 12-14 Finch Road
Douglas, Isle of Man, using account number 1006467909 with a Bank located in Lagos state.
At the time of writing this story, no official pronouncement has been made on the outcome of the investigation, but insider sources said there are other corporates and MDAs in Nigeria being monitored. Some state government accounts were also said to be under scrutiny as more global attention is being beamed on Nigeria.
BNP Paribas which was used by Sahara Energy to move the humongous funds has had a history of financial crimes. In 2017, the bank had to pay various fines in the US for breaches.
In 2017, French bank watchdog ACPR said it had fined BNP Paribas 10 million euros ($11.27 million) for inadequate anti-money laundering controls.
The penalty followed a 2015 inspection of the bank which revealed a number of shortcomings in its provisions for preventing money laundering and financing of terrorism, ACPR said in a statement.
In 2020, The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) has fined BNP Paribas’ Chinese unit 2.7 million yuan ($378,000) for failing to verify client identities and a failure to report large and suspicious transactions.
In 2014, BNP Paribas pleaded guilty Monday to concealing billions of dollars in transactions for clients in Sudan, Iran, and Cuba in violation of U.S. sanctions and agreed to pay $8.9 billion in fines, according to the Justice Department.