As the mystery around the Panama Paper leaks unfold, more information has come to light about Nigerian elites and politicians who have been linked to the international scandal that have so far indicted more than 128 politicians and public office holders around the world.
According to information that recently came to light, and obtained by Premium Times, Nigeria’s former Senate President, David Mark, has links to at least eight active offshore shell companies while he served as the Senate President of Nigeria.
The shell companies, to which Mark is a shareholder and owner, are said to have been opened and operated by a Panama based law firm, Mossack Fonseca and registered in the British Virgin Island.
The law firm is reputed for helping their clients around the world to register companies anonymously.
By virtue of owing such companies abroad while holding public office, Mark violated a federal code of conduct law that prohibits public office holders from operating foreign accounts and companies, and compels them to declare such assets.
The eight companies allegedly owed and actively operated by the former senate president are: Sikera Overseas S.A, Colsan Enterprises Limited, Goldwin Transworld Limited, Hartland Estates Limited, Marlin Holdings Limited, Medley Holdings Limited, Quetta Properties Limited, and Centenary Holdings Limited.
Investigations into the operations of Mossack Fonseca was carried out by the the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and more than 100 other news organizations around the world -including a Nigerian online publication.
While it remains to be seen the exact business the rogue companies traced to Mark actually does, it was, however, revealed that Mark as been a target of several investigations as he had to send papers across to prove that he was clean.
Mark has been a public office holder for the past 40 years, serving first as a military governor in Niger state and later as a Minister of Communications.
Section 6(b) of the Code of Conduct Act clearly states that a public office holder shall not, “except where he is not employed on full‐time basis, engage or participate in the management or running of any private business, profession or trade”.
The code also provides sanctions for such violations. Section 23 of the Code of Conduct law, spells out sanctions for violators:
(1) Where the (Code of Conduct) Tribunal finds a public officer guilty of contravening any of the provisions of this Act, it shall impose upon that officer any of the punishments specified under subsection (2) of this section.
(2) The punishment which the Tribunal may impose shall include any of the following-
(a) vacation of office or any elective or nominated office, as the case may be;
(b) disqualification from holding any public office (whether elective or not) for a period not exceeding ten years; and
(c) seizure and forfeiture to the State of any property acquired in abuse or corruption of office.