PARADISE PAPERS: CBN Governor, Emefiele Fingered In Tax Evasion Scandal
Governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank, Godwin Emefiele has been fingered in a newly leaked document revealing prominent businessmen and politicians all over the world who put their asset beyond the reach of the taxman.
According to a report by the Guardian UK, Emefiele’s lawyer confirmed that until July this year he remained the co-owner of an offshore company with a foreign bank account.
The company was part of an Isle of Man aviation scheme.
But Emefiele has defended himself, as he was quoted by the report as saying that this was because of an “administrative oversight of the company”, which was not his fault and was outside his control.
The offshore company which Emefiele co-owned is known as Oviation Asset Management Limited but that was before his appointment as CBN governor.
The law required him to offload the shares as a public servant and any continued interest in the 49% of the shares of the company, which was registered in Bermuda and held an account with UBS in London, would have been a breach of the Nigerian code of conduct for public officials.
The code states that officials “shall not maintain or operate a bank account in any country outside Nigeria”.
Oviation was part of a structure that imported two jets via the Isle of Man.
Oviation’s co-owner, with 51% of the shares, was Jim Ovia, the founder of Zenith bank. Emefiele was Zenith’s chief executive until he took up his post as governor and the jet leasing companies were set up while he worked for Ovia.
In his role as governor, Emefiele is responsible for regulating and licensing Nigeria’s banks, including Zenith.
In order to avoid conflicts of interest, he was required to cut all financial ties to his former boss.
Emefiele says he did this in May 2014 and gave instructions for his shares to be handed back to the bank. He says he had no further involvement with the jet leasing scheme and no role in operating its bank accounts.
At no time, according to his lawyer, did Emefiele have a “personal bank account” offshore or “personal financial benefit” from his shares in any of the companies involved.
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