Why London Police cleared Babalakin over money laundering charge
The EFCC had accused Babalakin and four others of laundering over N3.4 billion through Mauritius for former Delta State Governor, James Ibori to buy a controversial Challenger Jet Aircraft.
The other accused are Stabilini Visinoni Limited, Bi-Courtney Limited, Alex Okoh, and Renix Nigeria Limited.
But a report prepared by the Metropolitan Police has shown that Babalakin or his company has no link with the purchase of the Challenger Jet by Ibori. There was also no part of the report showing that Ibori wants Babalakin in the United Kingdom or anywhere in connection with the deal.
EFCC had also accused the five suspects of siphoning $11.3million abroad for Ibori through Erin Aviation Account in Mauritius. But a document obtained recently by The Guardian revealed that neither Babalakin nor any of his firms was on the list of those investigated by the Met Police.
None of the suspects implicated in the alleged scandal was referred to in the Met Police document. The Police said its officers were prepared to come to Nigeria to testify.
The Met Police implicated a London based solicitor called Bhadesh Babulal GOHIL (BG) as the mastermind of how the controversial jet was purchased.
These facts were contained in a bundle of information, dated August 14, 2014, which was sent to the immediate past Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke from the UK Central Authority Judicial Co-operation Unit.
In the document, which gave insights into how the Challenger Jet was bought, there was no mention of Babalakin or any of his companies.
The information reads in part: “A mutual legal Assistance Letter of Request was received by the United Kingdom Central Authority from Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke, the Attorney General of Nigeria dated 11th July 2012 and was referenced CAU/MLA/007/12.
“This request was for assistance to obtain evidence in relation to an investigation conducted by the Metropolitan Police in relation to the funding of a jet aircraft by a company called Erin Aviation. This statement is made to clarify the investigation.
“The funding of this aircraft was part of an investigation called Operation Tureen and centred on the money laundering activities of James Onanefe Ibori (JI). The investigation began in March 2005 and as it progressed, it became apparent that JI has utilised the services of a London based solicitor called Bhadesh Babulal GOHIL (BG).
“JI had instructed BG to purchase UK property, assist with his very day expenses such as utility bills, his children’s school fees and his Centurion American Express credit card bills amongst others.
“The investigation also revealed that BG was involved in the purchase of a Challenger Jet aircraft from a Canadian company called Bombardier Inc. BG used his company’s client accounts to launder stolen monies received from Nigeria and falsified due diligence documents to authenticate the monies he received.
“As the investigation progressed, it became necessary to arrest BG for his role in the money laundering activity and to search his business premises.
“BG was arrested by DC Greenwood on suspicion of money laundering at the premises and was cautioned. The premises were searched and a large quantity of documentation and computers were seized.
“From examination of the material seized from the premises it became apparent that BG had been instructed to purchase a luxury business jet aircraft from a Canadian company called Bombardier Incorporation based in Texas and Canada.
“BG, in his capacity as a solicitor, conducted the required legal work for the purchase price of the jet aircraft which was due to cost in excess of $20million.
“BG used a variety of ‘off the shelf company vehicles’ to purchase property for JI and his family in particular. BG used the services of a fiduciary company called Copex Management Services (CMS) who were based in Mauritius to set up such companies.
“For the purchase of the aircraft, BG intended to use an ‘off the shelf company called Teleton Quays Ltd
(TQ), which was a special purposed vehicle designed to simply hold the ownership.
“TQ was incorporated by BG in the British Virgin Islands using a formation agency called Trident Trust on 22nd April 2005 and the early contracts paperwork with Bombardier Inc showed TQ as the initial purchaser.
However, BG actually used TQ to purchase a house in Dorset, UK, for JI situated at 42 Great Ground, Shaftsbury, because the builders required a quick sale and BG had no other special purpose vehicle available.
“Therefore, BG then needed a new separate special purpose vehicle to hold the ownership of the jet aircraft. BG therefore instructed CMS to incorporate a company called Erin Aviation in Mauritius.
“The papers seized from Arlington Sharmas Solicitors offices on the 7th November 2007 revealed that Erin Aviation was beneficiary; owned by a NM who it was established was a known associate of JI.
“It is my belief that NM was a ‘front man’ introduced into the intended aircraft purchase in order to keep JI’s name away from the ownership.”
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