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Panama Papers: Sitting and Ex Nigerian Senate presidents deny corruption accusations

By Cosmas Omonhinmin Jr
Posted on Wednesday, 13 April 2016 13:52

The leaked documents, dubbed the Panama Papers, have implicated prominent political figures in Africa’s biggest economy, including both current and former Senate presidents, Saraki and Mark, respectively. Both have professed their innocence.

it’s important to find out whether those monies involved are laundered, if they were then Mark and Saraki should be prosecuted according to the law

The Panama Papers are a trove of leaked internal data from the Panama-based law firm, Mossack Fonseca. The leaked documents were obtained by the German based newspaper, Suddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of investigative journalists (ICIJ).

With many government officials implicated in the scandal, Anthony Regha, a Lagos-based legal analyst, told The Africa Report: “There is a disconnect between those that are being governed and those that are governing them.”

Other government officials mentioned in the leaked documents include former defence minister, Theophilus Danjuma, former Delta State governor, James Ibori and Toyin Saraki, Bukola Saraki’s wife.

Regha believes the scandal conveniently feeds into a wider traditional political agenda. “This present government, in my thinking, is looking for ways to give their predecessors a very bad image that is why corruption is being centred on people linked to the past government. I don’t think there is a distinction between the Panama Papers and what is happening in the country today,” he opined.

Saraki, already under immense pressure, as he battles fraud charges in court, now has to answer for failing to declare at least four offshore assets listed under his wife’s name.

Toyin’s assets include a property in London’s plush Belgravia neighbourhood, two companies registered in the British Virgin Islands and a third company in the Seychelles. Both countries are known tax havens.

Saraki, seen as the third most influential politician after President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osibanjo, has denied any wrongdoing, claiming he “fully complied with the provisions of the law” in line with the declaration of assets.

Last week, David Mark dismissed information linking him to the leaked documents, saying the former Senate president started up to eight offshore shell companies during his time in office. He said he did not have any direct or indirect connection to any of the companies registered, operated or managed by Mossack Fonseca.

Nigerian analyst, Ademola Olowoyeye told The Africa Report that the country should take action if public funds were involved in the affair.

“If they have been doing business with their own money, then they should be left alone,” he said. “I think it’s important to find out whether those monies involved are laundered, if they were then Mark and Saraki should be prosecuted according to the law.”

Mark’s media team have also downplayed the scandal, drawing parallels between the Panama Papers revelation and what they claim was a similar smear campaign in 2007. The former Senate president may take legal action, his media team said.

The Panama Papers, consisting of about 11.5 million files containing information on 215,000 offshore entities, revealed records of top secret financial dealings connecting individuals in more than 200 countries and territories.

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