How Ex-Aviation Minister, Senator Stella Oduah Reportedly Acquired London Houses With N5 Billion Cash
The investigation dubbed Pandora Papers details how rich and powerful individuals from across the world– including more than 330 politicians from 90 countries–launder money by setting up businesses in tax havens like the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, as well as in countries like Switzerland and Singapore.
According to the investigation led by International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, including over 600 journalists, some from PREMIUM TIMES, seven London properties are connected to Oduah.
The purchases occurred from 2012 to 2014, a period in which she served as Nigeria’s Aviation Minister.
One of the properties is said to be in her name, two through her Nigerian-incorporated firm, and four secretly through her Seychelles offshore company.
International Trading and Logistics Company Limited (ITCL) was incorporated in Seychelles, a commonly used secret tax haven, with Oduah as the ultimate beneficial owner.
She then used the company to acquire four London properties worth a total of 6.7 million pounds between October 2012 and August 2013.
At the current exchange rate, that translates to approximately N5.2billion at the parallel market rate of N775 to a pound sterling.
At the time, Oduah was a minister in the government of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan. She served as Minister of Aviation between 2011 and 2014 when she was fired over massive corruption scandal.
Oduah was indicted by two panels, which probed the purchase of two bullet-proof cars by Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), an agency under her supervision, for N255 million in violation of Nigeria’s public procurement and appropriation laws.
According to UK Land Registry records, on October 19, 2012, ITCL bought a house at 23 St Edmunds Terrace, London, NW8 7QA for 5.3 million pounds.
Then, in the following year, 2013, between August 6 and 15, the following three more properties were bought in the name of ITCL:
Flat 2, 7 Devonshire Terrace, London (W2 3DN)
Bought: on or around 06/08/2013
Price paid: £378,000.
Top Floor Flat, 89 Brondesbury Villas, London (NW6 6AG)
Bought: on or around 12/08/2013
Price paid: £369,000.
Fourth Floor Flat, 19 Warrington Crescent, London (W9 1ED)
Bought: on or around 15/08/2013
Price paid: £680,000.
Records show that none of the four properties was bought with mortgage financing, meaning Oduah secretly routed 6.7 million pounds through her offshore company to anonymously effect the acquisitions, according to the report.
The publication in its report revealed;
Ms Oduah’s houses are among the 234 U.K. properties our collaborative investigation showed were anonymously acquired by offshore companies, with Nigerians as ultimate beneficial owners. The investigation exposed the hidden identities of the true owners of the properties bought in the so-called envelope structure that offers confidentiality benefits, which in the case of Nigeria public servants like Ms Oduah, mean a way of blocking the Code of Conduct Bureau from knowing undeclared assets.
Before her acquisition of the above four properties, Oduah had bought in her own name, on March 8, 2006, Apartment 209, Cavendish House, 31 Monck Street, London SW1P 2AS for 700 thousand pounds, Land Registry record shows.
Meanwhile, as she used ITCL Seychelles, she also invested in the UK property market through ITCL Nigeria, also while serving as minister. On July 12, 2011, just days after her assumption of office as aviation minister, she used ITCL Nigeria to buy Flats 303 and 306 Grant House, 90 Liberty Street, London SW9 0BZ for 475 thousand pounds each.
It is unclear if she declared some or all of the properties and the offshore company ITCL to Code of Conduct of Bureau (CCB).
Recall that on February 12, 2014, President Goodluck Jonathan fired Oduah from her position of Aviation Minister, after she was indicted by two panels for purchasing two bullet-proof cars for Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for N255 million, in breach of public procurement and appropriation laws.
The two panels were the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation headed by Nkiru Onyejiocha and a presidential panel headed by former Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Bello Isa.
Then, in December 2020, Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, EFCC, filed at an Abuja division of the Federal High Court 25 charges, accusing Oduah, alongside Chinese construction giant, CCECC, of conspiracy, possession of proceeds of corruption, fraudulent transactions, and laundering of funds totalling N5,052,415,984 between February and June 2014.
In July 2021, Inyang Ekwo, the Abuja court trial judge, threatened to issue a warrant for the arrest of Oduah, over her failure to appear in court for the corruption trial.
In a rather dramatic twist, barely a month after the judge’s threat, Oduah cross-carpeted from opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), saying she defected in the interest of the people of her native Anambra State.
In Nigeria, it is common for opposition politicians facing corruption trials or investigations to defect to the ruling party with the expectation that could save them from further troubles.
Meanwhile, the senator, who currently represents Anambra North at the upper chamber of National Assembly, did not respond to inquiries on the issue.