A former governor of Anambra State and vice-presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2019 general elections, Peter Obi, on Monday responded to allegations that he had secretly hidden over $500 million in offshore banks.
Speaking on an Arise Television programme, Obi said he had only $15 million accruing from savings and planning for his family.
Obi said he was a trader who ventured into banking before he became a governor.
The allegations were contained in the Pandora Papers, which named him along with a number of other wealthy across the world in the offshore assets industry.
Obi had reacted to the report, saying, “I did not in any respect whatsoever violate any law before, during and after my stewardship as the governor of Anambra.”
He added, “I think that the authors displayed ignorance on matters of Trust and International Investment Practices.”
Speaking during the Arise TV programme monitored by The PUNCH, Obi answered a question on how he made money before becoming a governor.
He said he ran a planned market management company, adding that he “was the sole importer of Heinz salad cream, just to give you an example of one company.
I was the sole importer of South African Breweries. I was also bringing in Ovaltine.
“The company I was with before, I left it for my brother who took over and paid me off. That company became the Next Cash and Carry which you see in Port Harcourt and Abuja.”
He further revealed that he used to import wine back in the days, adding that “everyone knew I was a very big trader.”
He said, “I had a very good business but went into banking.
“I was sitting in the board of three banks and was the chairman of one before I became a governor.”
Obi also revealed that he had major shares in the banks where he was a board member.
He, however, stated that joining politics made him poorer even though he doesn’t regret the decision he took.
He stated that as a father, he saved for his children. Noting that he breached no law and committed no crime, he said, “If you see anything more than $15 million there, confiscate what I have overseas and here”.
Obi had earlier been exposed in the Pandora Papers as one of the personalities who clandestinely set up and operated businesses overseas, including in notorious tax and secrecy havens in ways that breached Nigerian laws.
The Pandora Papers is a project carried out by a global International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
The project saw 600 journalists from 150 news organisations around the world poring through a trove of 11.9 million confidential files, contextualising information, tracking down sources and analysing public records and other documents.
The leaked files were retrieved from some offshore services firms around the world that set up shell companies and other offshore entities for clients, many of them influential politicians, businesspersons and criminals, seeking to conceal their financial dealings.
According to the former governor, “Trust company is a legitimate vehicle used everywhere globally for investment, savings and estate planning purposes. In my Particular case and that of my family, it was done on very valuable advice of our then bankers, Loyce TSB. This is what they did for all their international clients who operated at the time I lived in the UK. They will help you to see that the formulated trust company offshore and that is what we did.
“This company was never used to launder money before, during and after till date. It wasn’t used for anything during my time in office. It was strictly a trust company for savings and family planning that was used to support our borrowings which we even invested in this country”.
When asked by one of the Programme anchors if he had $500 million in offshore accounts. Obi said, “If you see more than 3% of that, in there, confiscate all my properties here and abroad.
“As a father, I save for my children, I save for my family and they Know.
“If you go there and find more than 3%, about 3% which is about $15 million, if I bequeath my children $500 million, I have cursed them. There is money you bequeath people, you curse them. You bequeath them what is manageable so that they can start their life. If you see anything more than $15 million there, confiscate what I have overseas and here”.