A former Minister of Defence, Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd) has been named among prominent and wealthy Nigerians with huge investments and secret accounts in remote parts of the world where they are shielded from paying taxes on their earnings.
This came on the heels of the recent release of volumes of secret files by the Mossac Fonseca, an equally secretive investment firm that helps wealthy people, drug barons and corrupt public officials launder slush funds with relative ease.
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 of Nigeria.
The secret files, now exposed, show that Danjuma owns several companies including Eastcoast Investments Inc – which he incorporated in Nassau, in the Bahamas, on March 25, 1997. According to available information, Danjuma and a certain Colin Marcel Dixon were directors of the company at its inception.
The company, according to an online media source, was floated to work in partnership with Scancem International of Norway when the latter decided to expand its involvement in Africa to include a project in Nigeria. However, the company soon became embroiled in a messy bribery scandal and Danjuma resigned as director of the company. Subsequently, Scancem acquired the shares of Eastcoast Investment from the project on December 1, 2003.
The Mossac Fonseca documents also revealed that besides Eastcoast, Danjuma had previously used several offshore firms to transact businesses whose details were not given. The former minister once served as director and vice-president of Cross Group Holdings International, which was registered in Panama on October 15, 1976, a period during which he was still in service as the Chief of Staff in the Nigeria Army. The documents also revealed that Danjuma was director of Zara Logistics, a company registered in Cyprus on September 2, 1993.
In addition, the retired general has also made the list of global personalities found to maintain secret accounts, operated with codes, with the Swiss branch of banking giant, HSBC. He was linked to HSBC account 15731CD, which was opened in 1993 and closed in 2001.
That revelation came during the February 2015 #Swissleaks investigation which exposed some of Nigeria’s wealthiest industrialists, former government officials and their relatives, among thousands of individuals around the world who operated highly secretive foreign accounts with HSB C, concealing their identities for years and using codes perhaps to shake off tax authorities from accounts.
Meanwhile, it has also been revealed that one Enrico Monfrini, a Swiss attorney hired by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to track the over $4 billion believed to have been stashed away in Swiss banks by the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha was himself, a suspicious personality.
According to the leaked documents, Monfrini, an influential legal practitioner in Switzerland operated over 178 companies in offshore tax havens such as Panama and the British Virgin Island. Although Monfrini reportedly helped the Nigerian government secure the release of N267 billion ($1.34 billion), his personal involvement in secret offshore investments designed to conceal earnings and evade taxes casts a shadow on his credibility and smacked of hypocrisy, considering the fact that he was chosen to track and recover funds stolen from Nigeria.