#PanamaPapers: How ex-Nigerian minister bought two penthouses in Panama for N837million

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A former Minister for National Planning, Rasheed Gbadamosi, owns two expensive and luxurious penthouses in Panama, a notorious tax haven, documents retrieved by PREMIUM TIMES from the leaked Mossack Fonseca database have shown.

Mr. Gbadamosi, writer, businessman and bureaucrat, who was recently appointed co-chairman of the Lagos at 50 planning committee, bought the two properties in 2008, while serving as chairman of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).

The septuagenarian shelled out a staggering N836.8 million ($2.6 million) for the penthouses located in a swanky tower in Panama, PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively reveal.

Apart from its notoriety as a tax haven, Panama is famed for its modern skyscrapers, casinos and nightclubs that dot its capital, Panama City.

Mossack Fonseca's office Panama ... Picture Credit: ABC Australia
Mossack Fonseca’s office Panama … Picture Credit: ABC Australia

An official of Mossack Fonseca said in one correspondence, seen by this newspaper, that Mr Gbadamosi was so enamoured, and in so much haste to acquire the exotic properties that he once offered to fly to Panama in a private jet to inspect them.

Details of Mr Gbadamosi’s luxury acquisitions were part of the internal data of the Panama-based law firm, Mossack Fonseca, obtained by the German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) with PREMIUM TIMES and over 100 other media partners in 82 countries.

According to the documents, sometime in early 2008, the former minister approached Gilberto Aleman, a Panamanian real estate broker, to help him secure two posh penthouses owned by Nicolas Corcione, owner of Ciclones Corporation Inc and Cosmopolitan Corp, the companies under which the properties were registered.

Valued at N436,800,000 ($1,365,000.00), Penthouse 1, the first penthouse Mr. Gbadamosi bought, is located in Ocean Park Tower 2, and consists of a surface area of 537.33 square meters, on floors 35 and 36 of the Tower.

The property is registered under the ownership of Ciclones Corporation Inc.

The second penthouse, Penthouse 5, is located in the same building as the first, Ocean Park Tower 2. It consists of a surface area of 479.88 square meters, on the 39th floor of the building. It is registered under the ownership of Cosmopolitan Corp.

Ocean Park Tower 2, which was completed in 2006, is one of the most expensive residences in Panama City. Located within the lush, Punta Pacifica area of the city, Ocean Park Tower 2 is a 44-floor glassy skyscraper that stood at 463 feet tall.

According to Panama-guide.com, an English Language website in Panama, the building, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean, comes furnished with controlled security, high-end luxury finishing, internal jogging/walking, football field, basketball and volleyball courts.

Apart from its 70 apartments, the high-rise has seven penthouses including two master penthouses. Penthouse 1 is one of the master penthouses.

Owners of apartments within Ocean Park are exempted from paying property taxes for 20 years. Rasheed Gbadamosi

According to the purchase and sale contract, Mr. Gbadamosi was expected to pay for both penthouses via wire transfer.

The contract stipulated that Mr. Gbadamosi was required to pay $10,000.00 as guarantee of purchase of each of the penthouses plus 30 per cent of the value of each of the houses at the time of signing the contract.

The contract further stated that he was required to pay the balance of the value of the properties within 60 days of signing the contract.

“A very influential figure”

In order to process the purchase, Mr. Gbadamosi sent a scanned copy of his international passport at the time (with number A23418785) to Ramses Owens, a lawyer working for Mossack Fonseca, as part of the Know Your Customer (KYC) and compliance and identity verification process needed for drawing up the contract.

The law firm and the real estate brokers also needed to do a due diligence research on Mr. Gbadamosi before the deal could be finalised.

In an email from address [email protected], on April 3, 2008, Mr. Gbadamosi also requested the real estate dealers to proceed swiftly with the transaction.

However, pending the conclusion of the due diligent research, Mr. Owens also suggested the creation of an escrow account in either Bahama or Panama to warehouse whatever funds Mr. Gbadamosi transferred from Nigeria

“Basically, we receive money in escrow accounts in the Bahamas, Miami and Panama. We prefer to use Bahamas or Panama. Generally, 1% is charged for the money that is handled in Escrow, plus a figure of approximately US $500 processing of contracts,” he wrote.

Also, in order to assuage some initial concerns raised by Mr. Corcione over the background of Mr. Gbadamosi as a politically exposed person, Mr. Aleman sent an email to the seller on April 3, 2008, describing the former minister as a “very influential figure” who should be treated with respect and care.

“I understand that we must be very careful in such a large transaction, but we must not scare off customers and lawyers who often get us patrons,” Mr. Aleman wrote in Spanish. “The Lord Gbadamosi is a very influential figure in Nigeria who has been Minister of State, and today is chairman of the regulatory body for oil in Nigeria and has so much influence,” he wrote.

Attempts to get Mr Gbadamosi to comment for this story was unsuccessful. He could not be reached on his known mobile telephone number. He also did not reply an email sent to him on the matter.

Mr. Gbadamosi and the Code of Conduct law

Mr. Gbadamosi was chairman of the board of PPPRA between May 2003 and December 2009.

He was chairman of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Committee (PPPRC), PPPRA’s predecessor, from March 2001 to May 2003.

Under Nigerian law, acquiring assets abroad is not illegal, but according to the Fifth Schedule of the constitution, chairmen and members of the Boards or other governing bodies and staff of statutory corporations and of companies owned by the Federal, State or local governments councils must declare their assets on assumption of duty and on leaving office.

Apart from declaring their assets, appointees are also expected to justify the sources of income for whatever additional assets are acquired in-between commencement of duties and departure from office.

It remained unclear on Saturday whether Mr. Gbadamosi declared his interest in the two penthouses to the Code of Conduct Bureau.

When contacted Saturday, officials of the Bureau declined comments on the former minister’s assets declaration.

One of the officials simply said, “The law does not empower us to reveal details of the assets declarations submitted to us. But we are following PREMIUM TIMES’ reporting closely. And we will press charges against anyone found to have broken the law”.

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