Two million pounds “stolen” by ex-minister Jeremiah Useni seized in Jersey

General and retired politician from Nigeria, Jeremiah Usenilost £1.9million stashed in bank accounts on the island of Jersey, a court in that country ruled on Thursday, according to a local newspaper.

Bailiwick Express reported that the Royal Court of Jersey seized funds held in four accounts at Standard Chartered Bank over a 15-year period from 1986, when the old soldier first opened an account in the name of ” Tim Shani”.

It has since emerged that Tim Shani is a fake name the former minister used to conceal his loot.

Mr Useni, 79, was a lieutenant general in the Nigerian army and a close ally of the late kleptocrat Sani Abacha under which he served as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory. He then represented Plateau South in the Nigerian Senate between 2015 and 2019.

The former head of state, Sani Abacha

In 2006, an investigation by the Office of the National Security Adviser under President Olusegun Obasanjo indicted Mr. Useni. The investigative report obtained exclusively by PREMIUM TIMES indicates that Mr. Useni acquired real estate, hotels, oil and agricultural assets from illicit sources.

Two of the assets identified in the investigation report – Tim Tali Motels, Langtang, and Tim Tali Farms, Gwagwalada – have names similar to the fictitious name he used in Jersey.

In 2001, Standard Chartered Bank of Jersey wrote to Mr Useni – who was then known to the bank as ‘Tim Shani’ – that newly enacted stricter anti-money regulations required him to present a certified copy in accordance with his passport.

Responding six months later, he continued to misrepresent himself as “Mr Shani” and then requested that the funds in his accounts be transferred to a Nigerian bank account. His request was denied, and in 2003 the case sparked law enforcement action, leading to the freezing of suspicious accounts.

After four years of repeated attempts by Mr. Useni’s lawyer to unblock the accounts, he finally revealed his true identity and ownership of the accounts in 2007.

While making the disclosure, he claimed to have derived his wealth from several businesses, including transportation, hospitality, gas stations, real estate investing, and personal savings. He said he decided to hide his wealth overseas for “safety” due to the instability in Nigeria.

The businesses he cited as sources of his wealth were similar to those listed by the Obasanjo-era investigation as having been illegally acquired in Nigeria.

Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu
Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu (Photo credit: Daily Trust)

He reportedly provided no information about his income in the 1980s and 1990s to explain where his wealth came from, but he said he used the non-existent “Tim Shani” to open the accounts based on advice from his agent. ‘use an “encrypted password”

The Jersey attorney general concluded he did so to hide his connection to the funds and disguise their likely criminal source.

“The Attorney General believes that the Shani Accounts were created to hold, hide and conceal bribes or other proceeds of corruption received by Useni during his time in office,” Bailiwick Express said. citing the court before ordering the forfeited funds transferred to Jersey. Criminal Offense Forfeiture Fund.

“The payments into Shani’s accounts were more likely than not for the purpose or due to the exercise of political influence in the award of lucrative contracts to foreign and Nigerian companies for the provision of industrial or commercial services in Nigeria.”

Mr Useni’s lawyer in Jersey is said to have tried to explain the source of the funds as cash gifts from friends and well-wishers during festive times, in keeping with Nigerian culture. Furthermore, the lawyer claimed that there was no code of conduct for public officials in Nigeria at the time the alleged gifts were received.

The court dismissed the explanations as absurd and unbelievable.

“The certificates of [Gen Useni] have not satisfied the Court that the property held in the bank accounts is not tainted property and, at the request of the Attorney General, we will issue a forfeiture order in respect of such property,” the court concluded, according to Bailiwick Express.

Between 2003 and 2020, at least $470 million – stolen and laundered across the United States by the late Mr. Abacha and his family and associates such as the Governor of Kebbi State Atiku Bagudu – was repatriated to Nigeria from Jersey.

However, the court did not rule that the 1.9 million pound sterling recovered from Mr. Useni be transferred to Nigeria.

Mr Useni did not return calls or respond to a text message seeking comment on Friday.

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