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How Billionaires Navigate Financial Scrutiny in the US

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By Eric Elezuo

Many billionaires the world over, especially of Nigerian origin has cried out following one level of scrutiny they undergo in the hands of the authorities of the United States of America while they go about their legitimate businesses. These scrutinies sometimes are unwarranted, according to reports.

They noted that these investigations are mostly a consequence of businesses thriving and additional specks of success.

In the recent past, the United States authorities froze about $14.2 million in bank accounts linked to companies registered by the chairman of Air Peace Limited, Allen Onyema.

Onyema and his head of finance and administration, Ejiroghene Eghagha were supposedly indicted for alleged money laundering and bank fraud in the United States.

The men, however, strongly deny the allegations and said they looked forward to proving their innocence in court.

The charges were made public by the United States Department of Justice.

According to a full details of the Indictment charge as obtained by Premium Times, Onyema used several companies he set up in the U.S. to launder funds and commit bank fraud through issuance of counterfeit letters of credit.

Some of the companies’ bank accounts in the U.S. and Canada were frozen with their substantial balances as part of the investigation, court documents showed.

The documents showed that $4,017,852.51 was seized from JP Morgan Chase Bank account number ending in 5512 held in the name of Springfield Aviation Company, LLC.

Another $4,593,842.05 held in Bank of Montreal with account number ending 7523 in the name of Springfield Aviation Inc. was also seized.

American government also traced and seized $5,634,842.04 held in Bank of Montreal with account number ending in 515 in the name of Bluestream Aero Services, Inc.

American law enforcement authorities indicated in the charge document that efforts had commenced to secure final forfeitures of the funds.

In a statement afterwards, Onyema maintained that he was innocent, suggesting that the US authorities were chasing an offence where there’s none

He said: “As the press statement clearly stated, these are indictment that only contains charges.

“I am innocent of all charges and the US government will find no dirt on me because I have never conducted business with any illegalities.

“Be rest assured that I also have my lawyers on this and these mere allegations will be refuted. I never laundered money in my life, neither have I committed bank fraud anywhere in the world. Every Kobo I transferred to the US for aircraft purchase went through the Central Bank of Nigeria LC regime and all were used for the same purpose.

“The American companies that received the funds are still in business. I never took a penny from any US bank or Nigerian bank. I am willing to defend my innocence in the US courts.”

His defence made one wonder where the authorities in America, especially the Department of Justice, got their facts from. But the American Federal Bureau of Investigation has insisted that its Investigations are thorough, and reveals only the facts.

Another Nigerian, who has come under severe scrutiny by the American authorities, is the Founder, Tingo Group, Dozy Mmobuosi.

Tingo is an Agri-Fintech company reputed in the fields of Agriculture, real estate and education.

Insider source informed The Boss that as the company gained prominence, especially with the Founder’s expressed desire to purchase one of the premier league club sides, Sheffield United, scrutiny became the order of the day, with the Hunderberg first laying a claim, and then, more recently, the US authorities.

A report noted a certain “Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and James Smith, the Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced the unsealing of an Indictment charging ODOGWU BANYE MMOBUOSI, a/k/a “Dozy Mmobuosi,” with securities fraud, making false filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), and conspiracy charges.

The announcement also accused the Tingo Founder of being at large.

According to the US Attorney, “Dozy Mmobuosi allegedly orchestrated a massive scheme to inflate Tingo Group’s financial statements and make it appear as though the cellular and agriculture companies he founded were profitable and cash rich companies when, in fact, they were not.  With this Indictment, Mmobuosi’s alleged deceitful scheme comes to an end.”

Additionally, the FBI Assistant Director in Charge, said: “Mmobuosi’s alleged fraud is an unseemly display of greed and corruption of our financial markets. Securities schemes like this can be devastating for victim investors. That’s why the FBI is committed to bringing financial fraud to light and perpetrators like Mmobuosi to justice.”

The US however, observed that the charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

As the introductory phrase signifies, “the entirety of the text of the Indictment and the description of the Indictment set forth herein constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.”

In his response, the 45 year old business man said, “They claim we had just $50 at a time, how have we sustained staff and projects? I will stand by what I have said before. I will cooperate with investigators, and we shall get to the root of this. We always knew that we needed to improve our internal controls and governance. And had started working on all of that since the merger started. Just to be very clear again, this merger is still not complete. And I hope this isn’t a conspiracy to take the business away from us or to stop the merger. I want to point out that those who heard Darren Mercer talk about the Tingo story bought into it and those who heard me speak passionately must have also loved the story. I have never gone on any road show to raise capital anywhere as people claim in false statements. I challenge anyone anywhere in the world who says that I Dozy Mmobuosi raised money for Tingo, let that person speak publicly with proof. I will address all allegations through the legal system across various jurisdictions.”

He further added, “Our works speak for us, speak with the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, and visit our offices. I also want to use this medium to let the world know that the food processing facility being built is not a Tingo project. It has been my ambition to build a food processing facility where foods from farms across Africa can be processed and value added. This project is being built on my family land and I am building with my resources, the banks I approached through my agents declined support, so I decided to build without support. You are invited to see how real it is.”

Mmobuosi insists on his innocence, concluding that he is now busy fighting back and writing a book that tells his side of the story. He also urged his supporters to keep fighting.

It is also worthy of note that late Nigerian business man, Harry Akande, better known as  Chicago Boss, also faced investigations by the U.S authorities during his hay days. Akande died in 2020 at the age of 77.

However, more fact have emerged that investigations of billionaires by US authorities are not limited to Nigerians alone. It is on record that the likes of one time world’s richest man, Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, was also investigated.

Also, Founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, who runs the conglomerate, Meta, was also a victim of US investigation.

According to a report by Reuters, Facebook confirmed that Zuckerberg was interviewed at a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigative hearing as part of the government’s antitrust probe into the social media company.

The social media stated thus: “We are committed to cooperating with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s inquiry and answering the questions the agency may have.”

The FTC told Facebook in June 2019 it was probing whether the company has engaged in unlawful monopolistic practices.

Facebook faced similar probes by the Justice Department and by state attorneys general and has said the investigations are looking at prior acquisitions and business practices involving “social networking or social media services, digital advertising, and/or mobile or online applications.”

While Nigerian billionaires are not aversed to every financial or security agency from carrying out their legitimate duties through scrutinizing the legitimacy of their businesses, they have insisted that due diligence is required before allegations are made. They also called on the government of Nigeria to be more protective of its citizens so that international embarrassment of Nigerians will brought to the barest minimum, and consequently eliminated.

From the accusations leveled against the likes of Onyema and Mmobuosi, most businesses and transactions are brought to abrupt halt, affecting families and livelihoods in the bargain.

However, the men have continued to navigate through the muddy waters of the scrutiny, promising to keep pushing until their innocence is established.

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High Society Present As Rotimi Akeredolu’s Laid to Rest in Owo

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By Eric Elezuo

The ancient town of Owo, Ondo State on Friday was a beehive of activities as it played host to dignitaries and citizens from all walks of life who stormed the town to grace the final burial ceremony of the late former governor of the state, Alakunri Rotimi Akeredolu.

The funeral service held at the St. Andrew’s Cathedral Anglican Church, Imola, Owo, Ondo State.

Akeredolu died on Wednesday December 27, 2023 during a protracted illness in German hospital.

The Vice President, Kashim Shettima, was among the dignitaries, who attended the funeral service at the church, and thereafter.

Other dignitaries whose presence were noted are the Ondo State Governor, Mr Lucky Aiyedatiwa; Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde; Edo State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki; Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the National Chairman of the APC, Abdullahi Ganduje among others.

Others were former governor of Ondo State, Segun Mimiko; governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun and members of the Ondo State House of Assembly, federal law makers among others.

The late former governor was interred at a burial ground in the town, at a brief ceremony that was strictly attended only by the immediate members of the Akeredolu family before a grand reception was held.

In his speech at the burial, the state Governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, who was Akeredolu’s deputy, said his former boss always stood for good governance and the rule of law.

“You are all here because he stood for something: good governance and the rule of law. He means a lot to different people, and that is why he has been described in different words. He was a courageous leader, a fighter, and a warrior. How can we forget him so soon? It is not possible because he lives on.

“He used the instrument of governance to intervene in different sectors of the state, including education, health services, and infrastructural development and security, among others,” he said.

Photos: Koya Adegbite

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Osun Gov, Adeleke, Loses Brother-in-Law

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A brother-in-law of the governor of Osun State, Senator Ademola Adeleke, Alhaji Tohir Aderemi Sanni, has died.

Alhaji Sanni is the husband of Governor Adeleke’s sister, Chief (Mrs.) Modupeola Adeleke Sanni.

Meanwhile, the Osun Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has commiserated with the bereaved, Mrs Sanni over the loss of her husband.

In statement signed by the state party chairman, Hon. Sunday Bisi, the party  described the news of the death as extremely sad and shocking, adding that the late business mogul was too good to depart at this time.

The statement reads:

“Osun PDP is really in short of words over the loss of a loving father and friend of our great party, Alhaji Aderemi Sanni, whose carriage exuded love beyond borders. He was a friendly father, so accommodating to a fault!”

“Alhaji Sanni would not hold back words of advice to anyone, no matter the societal disparity in class or status. Baba lived like a friend to all. He was an embodiment of humility in greatness”

“While we continue to grasp with the reality of the demise of Alhaji Sanni, our thoughts are with his wife, Chief Mrs Modupeola Adeleke, the children and members of the immediate family the great icon left behind”

“May Almighty Allah repose his gentle soul and grant him jannatul firdaus.”

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Lagos Country Club Appeals to Members for Calm

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The Lagos Country Club has appealed to its members and well wishers to remain calm and exercise restraints in the face of the current developments at the Club.

The appeal is coming on the heels of the illegal moves by the Registered Trustees of the Club to suspend the Management Council and constitute an Interim Management Board.

The Management Council made the appeal in a Special Statement to members and staff urging them to go about their activities in the Club without fear.

The Statement assured them of their commitment to upholding the Constitution of the Club, resolving the issues as soon as possible, and providing a safe and enabling environment.

The Chairmen of eight out of the ten sections of the Club have rejected the Interim Management Board arrangement and called on well meaning members of the Club and elders to wade in and explore avenue for peaceful resolution and allow peace to reign.

Meanwhile, His Lordship, Hon Justice Lewis Allagoa of Federal High Court of Nigeria in the Lagos Judicial Division has granted an Interim Injunction restraining the Trustees of Lagos Country Club from dissolving the Management Council of the Lagos Country Club and constituting a Caretaker Committee howsoever called or described.

In line with the order of Court for the status quo to remain, the Management Council remains in charge of the day to day running of the Club.

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