Atiku reacts to FinCEN reports on ‘suspicious’ $40 million transactions
Former Nigeria’s vice president Atiku Abubakar has said the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s (FinCEN), an agency of the U.S. Department of Treasury, report is “old false stories”
“There is nothing to it, there were no infractions. The sequence of event as reported in the story did not indict any indictments and consequently, it will be preposterous to assume one,” Atiku’s spokesman Paul Ibe told The Guardian Nigeria in a phone conversation on Monday night.
Paul was reacting to a Premium Times story based on FinCEN report that flagged some transactions linked to the former Nigerian Vice President as suspicious as it surveilled money movements within the international financial system, PremiumTimes reported.
Atiku, some of his wives and associates have been put under close watch by the FinCEN, Premium Times reported Monday.
According to the investigation report, $40 million was identified by the US Senate investigation regarding Atiku.
PremiumTimes joined about 400 journalists from 88 countries in the investigation of about 16-month collaborative work. The investigation, organised by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, BuzzFeed, and 108 media partners across the world, included a large volume of confidential financial reports relating to the transaction activities of world leaders, terrorists, drug dealers, and money launderers.
These documents, compiled by banks, shared with the government but kept from public view, expose the hollowness of banking safeguards, and the ease with which criminals have exploited them,” Buzzfeed reported.
The files included a large number of suspicious-activity reports, SARs, filed by banks and other financial institutions to the US Government as required by the Bank Secrecy Act., with the total amount in suspicious transactions reported being $2 trillion.
Of the $40 million flagged on Atiku, $25 million was reportedly wire-transferred into more than 30 U.S. bank accounts opened by Jennifer Douglas, Atiku’s fourth wife.
The wire transfers were primarily by GTCN, LetsGo Ltd. Inc., and Sima Holding Ltd. Both LetsGo and Sima are offshore corporations registered in Panama and the British Virgin Islands, respectively, and controlled by Mr Volpi, according to a letter to the Senate committee by the businessman’s lawyer, Raymond Shepherd of the Washington-based Venable firm.
On March 5, 2012, suspicious transaction reported by Habib Bank Limited New York, HBLNY was for the purchase of a flat in the “World Trade Centre residences” in Dubai for Rukaiyatu Abubakar, a senior wife of Atiku, through Tanjay, the transaction beneficiary.
The following day, March 6, 2012, as the SAR shows, Deutsche Bank New York raised a compliance question in an information request to HBL Dubai regarding another wire transfer between Guernsey Trust Company Nigeria Limited (GTCN) and Tanjay in the sum of $200,000 dated January 25, 2012. This was also reported to be for a flat for Rukaiyatu Abubakar – and there was another CHF 741,000 transaction to which GTCN and Tanjay were also parties.
The flagged 2012 wire transfers to Dubai triggered a further investigation, which revealed that GTCN had channelled several other transactions since May 2005, while Atiku was still Nigeria’s vice-president, to an account the company held with Habib Allied International Bank London, (HAIB, London) from multiple accounts held in Switzerland.
These transactions, also routed through HBLNY, were for “personal expenses” of Amina Titi Abubakar, Atiku’s first wife and Nigeria’s former second lady.
“Based on the negative information associated with parties identified, HBLNY has added Atiku Abubakar (the former vice president of Nigeria), Rukaiyatu Atiku Abubakar, Amina Atiku Abubakar, Massimo Del Celo, Uyiekpen Gboyega Giwa-Osagie, Tanjay, and GTCN to its internal automated real-time suspicious transaction monitoring for further surveillance of potential suspicious activity and this SAR is being filed against all parties listed,” the SAR said.
Years after Atiku was added to HBLNY’s suspicious activity monitoring system, another SAR filed in 2017 and showing 27 transactions totalling $11,140,357 involving Intels and channelled through Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, DBTCA, were reported as suspicious.
“Negative information was found regarding the partial owner and co-founder of Intels Nigeria Limited, Atiku Abubakar, having been the subject of investigations for allegations of fraud, corruption, and money laundering between 2000 and 2008,” DBTCA reported on the transactions originating from Intels. “This negative media was reported in prior SARs, and no new negative media was discovered.”
The generation of a SAR does not in itself constitute proof of any wrongdoing. However, the fact that SARs were generated in respect of transactions connected to Atiku is revealing. These transactions have given the public rare insight into how the former Vice-President’s financial affairs are conducted.
Atiku has since remained a subject of international graft. In fact, the former vice president has been banned from entering the United States for the past several years after he figured prominently in two corruption cases.
Also, Paul during his conversation with The Guardian Nigeria said the former vice president had a clean profile in foreign countries including the United States.
During the build-up to the 2019 general election, Atiku, who was a presidential candidate visited Washington in the US after several years of inability to visit the country.
Although, Reuters reported that Atiku’s travel ban was only suspended temporarily.
Several U.S. government officials told Reuters that the travel ban was waived temporarily by the U.S. State Department after lobbyists mounted a campaign among congressional lawmakers arguing that the administration should not snub the leading challenger to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to Reuters, one person familiar with the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Atiku was allowed to enter because the United States saw little benefit to creating bad blood with the man who might be the next leader of Africa’s most populous nation and the continent’s biggest oil producer.
Lobbyists hired by Atiku said they sought to overcome resistance at the State Department by securing support from members of Congress for the visit, as well as arguing that the top U.S. official for African affairs, Assistant Secretary Tibor Nagy, had an obligation to encourage democracy in the seventh most populous country in the world.