London houses worth £15 million connected With Saraki Listed For Probe

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Transparency International United Kingdom has listed 2 London homes suspected to be owned by Nigeria’s Senate President, Bukola Saraki for investigation beneath Britain’s new law, Unexplained Wealth Orders, that became effective from 31 Jan.

According to TI, Land registry documents show that the homes at 7 and 8 Whittaker Street, Belgravia, London are owned by Landfield International Developments limited and Renocon Property Development limited.

Based on current market estimates by Zoopla, the properties are value a combined total of around £15 million.

According to information released as a part of the Panama Papers, these companies were controlled by Toyin Saraki, the wife of the President of the Nigerian Senate, Bukola Saraki as well as one of his personal aides. At the time of those revelations, none of these offshore holdings were reported in Saraki’s official asset declarations.

Previous public disclosures by Saraki have indicated he has high levels of unexplained wealth, Transparency International said.

In 2003, his asset declaration showed he had accumulated tens of millions of pounds worth of assets during his time as director of Société Générale Bank and Special Assistant to the President on Budget.

The explanation he provided for these acquisitions was stated simply as “business”. Saraki is involved in an ongoing court case around allegations of false asset declarations from his tenure as Governor of Kwara state.

In a previous interview with The Guardian, Saraki said he had declared all his assets correctly and in accordance with Nigerian legislation.

Other assets listed for probe by Transparency International include a £18m property at Kenwood Gate, Hampstead, owned by the first Family of Azerbaijan, Flats 138A and 138B at 4 Whitehall Court, London, linked with Igor Shuvalov, Russian 1st Deputy Prime Minister. The flats are valued at £11.4million.

There are also a £1m property in Guildford linked with Ahmed Mahmoud Azwai, former Libyan Major General and two flats at Park Lane, said to be owned by former Pakistani prime minister, Nawaz Sharif.

Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) are a new investigative power designed to help enforcement act on corrupt assets.

The Orders, Transparency said, are significantly helpful where there’s no realistic prospect of cooperation or conviction in the country of origin, but there are sufficient grounds for suspicion that an asset has been acquired with the proceeds of corruption.

After an application from an enforcement authority[1], a high court judge will give notice of a UWO only if she is satisfied that the respondent is likely to be the owner of suspicious wealth beyond his means, and if all of the following tests are met:

* The respondent could be a Politically Exposed Person[2] (PEP) outside of the EEA; or there are cheap grounds to suspect that the respondent is or has been involved in serious crime

*The respondent’s known income is insufficient to obtain the asset

*The value of the asset is greater than £50,000

The UWO requires the respondent to explain how he lawfully acquired his assets. If he fails to respond or gives an inadequate response then this extra information is used in a separate civil recovery process (an existing measure under the proceeds of Crime Act) if law enforcement has gathered adequate proof.

The U.K. estimates that around £90 billion ($127 billion, 102 billion euros) of illegal funds are laundered through britain per annum and this includes cash taken from the Nigerian treasury.

Now officers can use the new unexplained wealth orders (UWOs), that came into result in the week, to seize suspicious assets and hold them till they need been properly accounted for, ben Wallace, Security and Economic Crime Minister told the times newspaper on Saturday.

-saharareporters

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