Top government officials and other high-ranking individuals have been said to own estates in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates contributing to the city’s economy while watching their own country deteriorate.
Dubai specializes in the selling of high-end properties—whether modest serviced apartments, luxury penthouses, or spectacular villas—to the world’s richest elites. Indeed, Dubai’s rapid growth and development over the last four decades have been underpinned by its booming real estate market.
With the strong financial backing of Abu Dhabi—the UAE’s capital and home to over 99 percent of its oil production—Dubai is also now one of the world’s premier commercial and banking centers. But, in part because of its success, it has become an attractive portal for illicit money flowing into the global financial system.
Dubai is now a welcoming destination for any unexplained wealth accrued by Nigerian political elites whether current or former. The city is seen as the place to relax and enjoy gains stolen from public funds away from the prying eyes of anti-corruption agencies, journalists, and civil society watchdogs. Dubai is seen as an accessible oasis far away from the political drama in Nigeria.
According to a report by Mathew Page, the reason Nigerian politicians invest their gains in Dubai’s property market is that Dubai-which is seen as the commercial capital of the Middle East- exercises minimal oversight and has few legal or logistical obstacles to transferring large amounts of cash or purchasing a property.
At least 800 properties in Dubai have been discovered to have links to Nigerian Politically Exposed Persons (PEP) or their family members, associates, and suspected proxies. These assets made with pilfered public funds if further investigated because they usually exceed purchases their official salaries permit.
According to reports, the 800 Dubai properties linked to Nigerian PEPs are estimated to be worth well over 146 billion naira (N) ($400 million). This equals roughly two-thirds of the Nigerian Army’s annual budget and over three times the annual budget of the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission.
About 20 former and serving governors, seven former and serving senators, current and former heads of ministries, departments and agencies of government, commissioners, and those described as ‘money changers,’ that is, bureau de change operators, own a significant number of the properties.
Some of the other identified individuals linked to the properties include the former PDP chairman, Ahmadu Ali; former Kwara State governor, Mohammed Lawal; former petroleum minister, Dan Etete; another former deputy senate president, Ibrahim Mantu; former managing director of the acquired Oceanic Bank, Mrs. Cecilia Ibru.
Others are the former inspector general of police, Tafa Balogun; former chairman of the military pension board, Bala Mshelia; former group managing director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Ladan Shehu, and a former head of the petroleum product marketing company, Samuel Okeke, among others according to Premium Times.
Although many PEPs’ property purchases exceed what their official salaries should permit, some politically exposed Nigerians have complicated personal financial portfolios combining marital and family assets, business holdings, charitable foundations, and other offshore wealth.
Only Nigerian law enforcement agencies, working with their Emirati and international counterparts, can determine conclusively whether an individual’s property was purchased with the proceeds of corruption.
Nigerian politicians seeing Dubai as their destination to invest ill-gotten gains has a serious implication on the country. The emirate’s receptivity to dubiously acquired loots might be the reason the looting keeps increasing.
An unknown proportion, perhaps substantial, of the over $400 million they have used to buy Dubai property could be part of a river of illicit financial flows out of Nigeria, which the think tank Global Financial Integrity conservatively estimated to total $178 billion from 2004 to 2013.
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