Saturday, September 25, 2021

EXCLUSIVE: Bank documents expose how Tinubu-linked shell company moved N16.4 billion after Alpha-Beta scandal

Ocean Trust existed for nearly 20 years without a traceable operation base, but its banking records leave a trail of curious cash handlings.

• November 23, 2020
Former Lagos State governor Bola Tinubu
Former Lagos State governor Bola Tinubu

Shortly after Dapo Apara came out with allegations of corruption and money laundering against Alpha-Beta Consulting in late 2018, associates of Omobola Tinubu who were running a shell company identified as critical to the movement of funds from Alpha-Beta started scrambling to protect their financial interests. 

Bank records of Ocean Trust Limited obtained recently by Peoples Gazette showed how the company hurriedly shuffled billions of naira between its accounts with Wema Bank.

WEMA BANK
WEMA BANK

Between January and June 2019, Ocean Trust summarily moved N16.4 billion from its operations accounts into a fixed deposit account, all domiciled at Wema Bank.

Ocean Trust was specifically mentioned in Mr. Apara’s court documents as one of the firms allegedly used to siphon funds from Alpha-Beta, the controversial Lagos tax contractor whose financial activities have come under scrutiny amidst ongoing publications by the Gazette.

Alpha-Beta has received billions from Lagos treasury since Mr. Tinubu was governor, according to recent records uncovered by the Gazette. Mr. Apara said the firm received N150 billion in the past 15 years from Lagos.

Most of the transactions, which Mr. Apara said were later laundered through fronts, were conducted in secrecy, and Mr. Tinubu and his successors have rejected all requests to publish the state’s financial records. 

The Gazette exposed Mr. Tinubu’s associates who were behind Ocean Trust on October 12. They included Yemi Adefarakan, Frank Obi and Kehinde Durosinmi-Etti.

Closure proceeds

On January 2, 2019, Ocean Trust moved N1.5 billion from its 0702892574 Wema Bank account to another 0122613238 account within Wema Bank. The description for the transaction was labelled “Closure proceeds”. A week after on January 9, N800 million was transferred to the same bank account.

On January 16, 2019, N500 million was also transferred to the same account. N1.5 billion, N800 million, and N500 million were transferred to the 0122613238 Ocean Trust account on February 1, February 8 and February 15 in 2019, respectively. 

The same account got N1.5 billion on March 4, while N800 million and N500 million were transferred on March 11 and 18, 2019. 

On April 3, the account received yet another N1.5 billion while N800 million was credited to it on April 10 and another N500 million on April 17. 

N1.5 billion was moved to the account on May 3 while N600 million and N500 million were credited to the account on May 10 and May 17 respectively. 

On June 3, N1.5 billion was transferred to the Ocean Trust account with another N600 million on June 10 and another N500 million on June 17. 

Peoples Gazette tried for several weeks to find a physical address of Ocean Trust without success.

Lawrence Abioye, a financial expert interviewed by the Gazette, said the transactions were suspicious for a company that had no physical address.

“Wema Bank should have done a thorough due diligence to be sure that only a company with reputable business address and personnel is able to move such large transactions,” Mr. Abioye said. “It is difficult to also imagine that the transactions were not flagged by authorities.”

Wema Bank did not return multiple requests seeking clarifications for the transaction from the Gazette.

From shell company to TVC

The suspicious N16.4 billion transactions that went into a fixed deposit with Wema Bank were also carried out with 08092317155, a telephone number linked to TVC executive Mr. Adefarakan.

On April 10, 2019, N200 million was transferred directly from Ocean Trust to Continental Broadcasting Service, the parent company of TVC which Mr. Tinubu admitted he had shares in a statement last month.

The broadcaster also received N10 million directly from Ocean Trust on June 14, 2019, even though the company had already been exposed as a shell business by Mr. Apara.

CAC filings showed Mr. Adefarakan once held a majority share of 4.6 million in Ocean Trust. Mr. Adefarakan now holds the position of executive director and group financial officer of Continental Broadcasting Service, owners of TVC News and other related media subsidiaries in Lagos and Abuja.

TVC News
TVC News

Mr. Adefarakan is also a director at Primero, operators of Lagos metro services BRT. Primero is led by Fola Tinubu, a cousin of the former Lagos governor and ruling party chief.

Also on the registration filings of Ocean Trust was Frank Obi, group executive director of Paragon Holdings.

Paragon built Ikeja City Mall, Circle Mall, Oshodi LAWMA Complex, Simpson LAWMA Complex and once held a 20 percent stake in Ikeja City Mall. Mr. Obi, who is also a non-executive director at Primero, had two million shares in Ocean Trust.

Kehinde Durosinmi-Etti, head of Lagos State Security Trust Fund, was also on Ocean Trust CAC document obtained by the Gazette with 2.4 million shares, alongside a former senator Jonathan Zwingina, who had 2.5 million shares. 

Wema Bank account opening package obtained by the Gazette showed Mr. Adefarakan was a signatory to Ocean Trust’s financial activities.

Mr. Adefarakan declined requests seeking clarifications about the transactions, but he warned the Gazette earlier this month to stop publishing suspicious transactions of Ocean Trust.

Click here to download bank documents showing how Ocean Trust transferred N16.4 billion to a fixed deposit account with Wema Bank.

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