Premium Times - Nigeria’s immediate past Senate President, David Mark, has links to at least eight offshore shell companies while holding public office, in violation of a federal code of conduct law, a massive leak of files belonging to Mossack Fonseca, a law firm in Panama, shows.
The files, seen by PREMIUM TIMES, show how Mossack Fonseca, reputed as one of the most secretive companies in the world, helped clients register offshore entities, some of which are then used to launder money, evade tax and dodge sanctions.
They also provide details of the hidden financial dealings of 128 more politicians and public officials around the world, including in Nigeria.
The trove of 11.5 million files shows how a global industry of law firms and big banks sells financial secrecy to politicians, fraudsters and drug traffickers as well as billionaires, celebrities and sports stars.
The revelations are among the findings of a lengthy investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and more than 100 other global news organizations – including PREMIUM TIMES.
PREMIUM TIMES is the only Nigerian publication involved in the investigation, which lasted a year.
As a former senate president, Mr. Mark stands out among other notable Nigerians named in the files.
The 68-year old former military officer spent the last 40 years covered by the investigation largely as public office holder. But he is widely seen to be far richer than his legitimate incomes could have provided.
He served as military governor of Nigeria’s north-central state of Niger, minister of communications, and later as president of the Nigerian Senate from 2007 to 2015.
Mr. Mark has been in the senate since 1999, and remains a senator of the federal republic, representing Benue South Zone in the upper legislative chamber.
Mr. Mark and his secret companies
The Mosseca Fonseca database shows that Mr. Mark is one of Nigeria’s most extensive users of offshore shell companies, even while being a public official.
In documents, Mr. Mark was linked to eight active companies registered in the British Virgin Island.
They are Sikera Overseas S.A, Colsan Enterprises Limited, Goldwin Transworld Limited, Hartland Estates Limited, Marlin Holdings Limited, Medley Holdings Limited, Quetta Properties Limited, and Centenary Holdings Limited.
In the documents, Mr. Mark was repeatedly marked as a politically exposed person, and at a point the former Senate President had to send documents, across to Mosseca Fonseca to prove that he was clean.
It remains unclear what businesses Mr. Mark is conducting with the companies.
While not all owners or operators of such offshore entities are criminals, owning or maintaining interest in private companies while serving as a public official is against Nigerian laws.
Section 6(b) of the Code of Conduct Act says a public office holder shall not, “except where he is not employed on full‐time basis, engage or participate in the management or running of any private business, profession or trade”.
In a previous investigation by PREMIUM TIMES, Mr. Mark’s estranged wife, Vikky Preye Mark, was also exposed as an operator of secret offshore accounts.
Mrs. Mark operated an account with the Swiss branch of HSBC, but with details made largely secret.
Although she was known within the bank as the beneficial owner of the account, she was largely identified with a secret code – 14312MP.