With a staggering $15.4 billion wealth, Nigeria’s businessman and industrialist, Aliko Dangote, is on Forbes Rich List as the richest man in Africa. But does Mr. Dangote pay his fair share of tax in Nigeria or is he hiding assets abroad? That remains unclear.
Yet that question has become even more relevant across the globe following discoveries of several secret shell companies linked to the businessman, his allies and relatives.
According to internal data of the Panama-based offshore-provider, 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, Mr. Dangote, his relative, Sayyu Dantata, as well as his business allies have over the years used shell companies domiciled in controversial tax havens in their business transactions.
The unprecedented year-long investigation involving 11.5 million secret documents – which stretch from 1977 to December 2015 – expose the hidden underground of the world economy, a network of banks, law firms and other middlemen that utilize shell companies, sometimes using them to hide illegal wealth.
The 2.6 TB files, involving 214,488 entities, also reveal hundreds of details about how former gun-runners, contractors and other members of the spy world use offshore companies for personal and private gain.
The investigation unveiled the cloak of secrecy provided by Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm that specializes in creating offshore companies, some of which have been used by con men and women to hide Ponzi schemes, predatory lending scams, and other financial frauds from their victims and from the authorities.
Mossack Fonseca has, however, in a statement to ICIJ denied wrongdoings, saying, as a registered agent, it merely helps incorporate companies, and that before agreeing to work with a client in any way, it conducts a thorough due-diligence process, “one that in every case meets and quite often exceeds all relevant local rules, regulations and standards to which we and others are bound.”
Mr. Dangote is one of the most prominent clients of Mossack Fonseca, and in Panama alone, based on company registration addresses provided by shareholders, 13 shell companies registered by the firm are directly linked to persons and companies who in turn are linked to the billionaire and his allies.
A network of companies for Aliko Dangote and Sayyu Dantata
Mr. Dangote, alongside his half brother, Sayyu Dantata, the founder of MRS Holdings (a leading West African oil-marketing firm, which acquired Chevron-Texaco’s downstream assets in 2007) bought equal shares of 12,500 each from OVLAS S.A, a shell company registered in Seycheles, on October 6, 2003.
Seychelles is a well-known tax haven used by businessmen and politicians and celebrities to perpetrate shady business deals. On the same date also, a company they both own as at 2003, MRS Oil and Gas Co. Limited bought 25,000 numbers of shares from OVLAS S.A.
According to the documents, three years after they existed as shareholders of the company, the trio – Dangote, Dantata and M.R.S Oil and Gas Company Limited – ceased to be shareholder in the company. That was on April 12, 2006.
But in an arrangement that seems curious, Mr. Dangote was issued a higher amount of shares – 250,000 – on the same day he resigned.
In the same manner, his brother, Mr. Dantata, was issued the same amount of 250,000 shares. That means the businessmen simply resold the shares back to themselves. Their company, MRS Oil and Gas, was re-issued 500,000 shares.
After three years of holding the shares, they all ceased to be shareholders. Again, they resumed possession of the shares again as in the previous time, but this time it seems Mr. Dangote sold his shares to Mr. Dantata and M.R.S Oil and Gas Company Limited.
Mr. Dangote ceased to be shareholder permanently on July 6, 2009, and Mr. Dantata’s amount of shares doubled to 500,000 shares while MRS Oil and Gas CO, LTD retained its 500,000 shares. Documents show Mr. Danatata never sold, transferred his shares or ceased to be a shareholder till date.
Petrowest S.A: Same folks, same tricks
Before Mr. Dangote ceased to be shareholder of M.R.S Oil and Gas Limited, himself, Mr. Dantata and their co-owned company, M.R.S Oil and Gas Co. Limited, was used to buy shares in Petrowest S.A, another company registered in Seychelles on October 6, 2003.
Messrs Dangote and Dantata bought equal shares of 12,500 each from Petrowest S.A. MRS Oil and Gas Co. Ltd also bought 25,000 numbers of shares from Petrowest, just as was done with OVLAS S.A.
Again, three years after they existed as shareholders, the trio – Dangote, Dantata and M.R.S Oil and Gas Company Limited ceased to be shareholders in the company. That was also dated April 12, 2006.
Like in the case of Ovlas S.A, Mr. Dangote suddenly ceased to be shareholder. According to documents available to Premium Times, on the same day, Mr. Dangote was re-issued a higher amount of shares – 250,000. In the same manner, his brother, Mr. Dantata, was issued the same amount of 250,000 shares. This literary means they resold the shares back to themselves. Their company MRS Oil and Gas was re-issued 500,000 shares.