A former President of the Nigerian Senate, David Mark, was not telling the truth when he denied knowledge of eight offshore companies linked to him as part of the ongoing #PanamaPapers revelations, a series of leaked documents has shown.
PREMIUM TIMES had on April 5 exposed Mr. Mark as operating shell companies in tax havens while being a public official in Nigeria, a violation of the country’s code of conduct law.
But shortly after the story broke, Mr. Mark denied owning any of the companies linked to him in the British Virgin Islands, a notorious tax haven, claiming this newspaper’s reporting was politically-motivated and calculated at tarnishing his image.
“We reiterate categorically that he is not directly or indirectly connected to any of the companies registered, operated or managed by the Mossack Fonseca Law Firm,” the lawmaker said through a statement by his spokesperson, Paul Mumeh. “We challenge all those behind this propaganda and media outburst to prove or show that Senator Mark’s name was mentioned in the leaks.”
In response to the lawmaker’s challenge, this newspaper is now making public documents that strongly established the links between him and the companies listed against his name in the Mossack Fonseca database.
The documents include a due diligence report submitted to Mossack Fonseca by Helms Trust Company, a Jersey based firm, a reference letter written by an associate of Mr. Mark to the Panamanian law firm authenticating his identity, a copy of Mr. Mark’s valid passport at the time, electricity bill receipt of the former senate president’s home in his native Otukpo as well as his official letterhead.
The due diligent report, dated June 12, 2014, categorised Mr. Mark as a politically exposed person (PEP) and identified him as the beneficial owner of the companies listed against his name. It also showed that the companies were active, at least as at June 2014.
The companies 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.
The other documents in Mr. Mark’s file with Mossack Fonseca were apparently sent by the lawmaker to the law firm as part of a Know Your Customer (KYC) compliance and identity verification process.
Although Mr. Mark is known within Mossack Fonseca as the beneficial owner of the companies, he used nominee directors for years to mask his relationship with the shell entities.
PREMIUM TIMES also found that one of the companies, Goldwin Transworld Limited is a shareholder in London-based Goldwin Services (UK) Limited, along with one Anne Folkard, a British citizen believed to be Mr. Mark’s long time associate and front.
Company documents in the U.K. show that Mr. Mark himself was a director in Goldwin Services (UK) Limited between October 3, 1994 and January 25, 1996, when he substituted himself with another shell company he had registered offshore, Goldwin Transworld Limited.
Ms. Folkard authored one of the documents in Mr. Mark’s file with Mossack Fonseca.
In 2010, apparently after Mossack Fonseca became suspicion about his business dealings, Mr. Mark sent documents across to the Panamanian firm through Ms. Folkard to convince the offshore provider of secrecy to continue to serve as his registered agents in Panama and the British Virgin Islands.
It is not immediately clear when Mr. Mark and Ms. Folkard met, but the letter sent to Mossack Fonseca by Ms. Folkard on behalf of the former Senate President indicated that they had been friends before 1994.
“You asked if I could confirm Senator David Mark’s address in Nigeria and I am happy to do this for you.
“Please find attached a copy of his senatorial headed paper which I had printed for him when he first became a Nigerian Senator in 1999. I can confirm that the address on the left-hand side of the page, 15 Asa Road, is his constituency address where he resides in Otukpo.
“I first visited that address back in 1994 and subsequently went there for the wedding of his oldest daughter, Caroline Mark, in 2001. If required, I have photos of the actual house. The traditional wedding and reception took place in his garden.
“I have also visited him at his official residence in Abuja. It is in the residential Apo Legislative complex in Abuja which is the residential area specifically built to house the Nigerian Senators when Nigeria became a democracy. The house that he lives in there is assigned with his senatorial job and as such he does not have the traditional bills that we would normally expect householders to have.”
When contacted Tuesday, Ms. Folkard told PREMIUM TIMES she was in a meeting, and unable to comment on businesses she run for Senator Mark.
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”.
Mossack Fonseca, reputed as one of the biggest providers of secrecy 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 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.[Premium Times]