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Asiwaju Bola Tinubu or the Jagaban of Lagos as he is popularly known and addressed is a heavyweight in Nigerian politics. The two-time Governor of Lagos State and National Leader of the All Progressive Party can be said to have seen it all and done it all when it comes to politics in Nigeria.
In 1993, under the Ernest Shonekan’s Interim Government, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was still an upcoming political figure. He was mainly based in the United States and carried out most of his activities from there. It was also in that year that he was indicted for Cocaine, Heroin and Gun crimes which led to the forfeiture of an estimated amount of $460,000 and some $1,400,000 cash.
The details of the suit against him had it that he was identified as a bagman for two Nigerian Heroin movers who operated out of Chicago and Hammond, Indiana. They were Adegboyega Mueez Akande and Abiodun Agbele, Akande’s nephew, who was exposed to law enforcement after selling White Heroin first to Lee Andrew Edwards, another dealer later jailed for trying to murder a Federal Agent, and then to an undercover cop. An IRS Special Agent, Kevin Moss had brought the information that Akande had run the White Heroin ring in the late 1980s until 1990 when he handed off the United States arm of the business to his nephew, who had arrived in 1988.
Akande then returned to Nigeria but continued to oversee the operation from there with the help of others at home and in the United States, including his relatives. One of the individuals identified in his cartel by Moss was Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, then a Chicago State University-educated accountant working as a treasurer for Mobil Oil Nigeria Ltd, a subsidiary of energy giant Mobil Oil, which was still a few years shy of its famous merger with Exxon in 1999.
Bola Tinubu had given differing accounts for his wealth to Moss which had ultimately led to the money being seized by the prosecuting panel with the case.
Details of the suit read:
‘According to the Verified Complaint for forfeiture in case No. 93 C 4483 which was filed on July 26, 1993, before the Hon. Judge Nordberg of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, the United States Government urged the Court to order the forfeiture of funds in accounts Nos. 263226700 held by First Heritage Bank in the name of Bola Tinubu, funds in accounts 39483134, 39483396, 4650279566, 00400220, 39936404 and 39936383 held by Citibank N.A in the name of Bola Tinubu and funds in accounts 52050-89451952,52050-89451952, 52050-89451953 held by Citibank in the name of Bola Tinubu because there was probable cause to believe that the funds in Tinubu’s bank accounts represented proceeds of narcotics trafficking or were monies involved in financial transactions in violations of 18 U.S.C, sections 1956 and 1957 and therefore, was forfeitable to the United States Government.’
However, in a bid to defend ownership of the funds, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu averred in Court that the funds belonged to himself, his wife, K.O Tinubu and his surrogate mother, Alhaja Mogaji and warranted that they had an exclusive right, title and interest to the funds.
In an affidavit sworn to by Kevin Moss, a Special Agent with the United States Internal Revenue Service, criminal investigation division in support of the verified complaint about forfeiture of Bola Tinubu’s money held in various Bank accounts, the agent gave a vivid account of how he came to the conclusion that the funds were proceeds of narcotics transaction in violation of the U.S law.
Mr Moss averred that prior to and during 1988; the government became involved in the investigation of a white heroin trafficking network operating in Chicago, Illinois and Hammond, Indiana. The investigation disclosed that an individual known as Lee Andrew Edwards was a source of white heroin. The government sources provided information about Lee Andrew Edwards including the identity of a telephone number which activated in electronic pager. This pager according to him was to be called to place an order for white heroin. According to Mr Moss, this pager was subscribed to by one Adegboyega Mueez Akande who at that time was a resident of Chicago.
Mr Moss further averred that during February 1988, an individual named Abiodun Agbele arrived in the U.S from Nigeria and during an investigation by the government, Agbele disclosed that Akande was his uncle who provided him with an apartment in Hammond, Indiana.
According to Agbele, Mr Akande returned to Nigeria in1 990; however, before he left, he instructed Agbale to serve as a source of white heroin for Mr Lee Andrew Edwards as a result of which Agbele sold white heroin for Lee Andrew Edwards on numerous occasions. Following a tip-off, Agbele sold one ounce of white heroin to a law enforcement agent undercover on November 28, 1990, for $7,000 and was subsequently arrested. After his arrest, Agbele agreed to cooperate with the law enforcement agents regarding the white heroin distribution and network of Akande. According to Agbele, Akande controlled the operation of white heroin from Nigeria in conjunction with other individuals in Nigeria and the U.S.
One other individual who worked with Akande according to the affidavit was identified as Bola Tinubu who later became the governor of Lagos state from 1999 to 2007. The investigation also revealed that in December 1989, Akande took Bola Tinubu to First Heritage bank where Bola Tinubu opened an individual money market. In the account opening application, Tinubu gave his address as 7504 South Stewart, Chicago, the same address used previously by Akande and his company, Globe-Link. This is the same address used as the drop-off point for packages from Nigeria that contained the white heroin.
According to bank records, Bola Tinubu also opened a joint checking account in his name and the name of his wife, Oluremi Tinubu. Mrs Tinubu had previously opened a joint Bank account also in the same bank with Abdrey Akande, the wife of the heroin kingpin, Adegboyega Mueez Akande. Upon opening the account, Tinubu deposited the sum of $1,000 in traveller’s check. After five days after opening the account, specifically, on January 4, 1990, Tinubu deposited the sum of $80,000 into the account.
According to the Federal Agent, in a credit application dated January 6, 1990, Bola Tinubu disclosed that he resided at 7504 South Stewart and that Mueez A. Akande was his cousin. Tinubu further stated that he was an employee of Mobil Oil Nigeria Limited, Fairfax, Virginia and his take-home pay was $2,400 per month. Additionally, Tinubu stated on the application that he had no other sources of income and listed his wife, Oluremi Tinubu as co-applicant for the application for an automobile loan.
According to the Federal Agent, bank records from First Heritage Bank disclosed that in 1990 alone, Bola Tinubu deposited $661,000 into his individual money market account and in 1993; he deposited the sum of $1,216,500 into the same money market account. The Agent further averred that in 1991, Tinubu began opening accounts at Citibank in the section known as the world-wide personal banking unit where he transferred the sum of $560,000 from his money market account at the First Heritage Bank.
This development prompted the Federal Agents to interview representatives from Mobil Oil regarding Tinubu’s employment status and his take-home pay. The Mobil Oil representatives confirmed to the investigators that Tinubu was employed by the Mobil Oil as a treasurer. Mobil Oil further told the Federal Agents that this position did not involve the transfer of large amounts of money between banking institutions. Mobil oil representatives also stated that under no circumstance would Tinubu be permitted to retain money belonging to Mobil Oil in accounts bearing Tinubu’s name. Finally, Mobil Oil confirmed that the corporation never had any accounts in banks in the southern suburbs of Chicago.
On January 13, 1992, Mr Moss, the Federal Agent contacted Bola Tinubu in Nigeria by phone using a number provided to the First Heritage Bank by Tinubu himself. Mr Moss averred that during the course of the interview, Bola Tinubu confirmed that he knew Mueez Adegboyega Akande. Tinubu further admitted during the interview with the Federal Agent that he had wire transferred $100,000 to Akande’s bank account in Houston and that the $80,000.00 of the funds used to open the account at First Heritage Bank had come from Akande. Tinubu further admitted that he had other accounts in Fairfax, Virginia and London.
Concluding his affidavit evidence, Mr Moss stated that with all these evidence, there was probable cause to believe that the funds in the accounts held by First Heritage Bank and Citibank, N.A in the name of Bola Tinubu represented property that was involved in narcotics transaction in violation of the U.S law. He, therefore, urged the Court to issue an order of forfeiture of the funds.
There was no evidence that Tinubu was ever indicted for any crime. He eventually settled with the district court, turning over $460,000 of the total amount seized.
Although this was 27 years ago, Bola Tinubu is still frequently being invited for questioning whenever he steps foot in the United States.
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AFRICA DAILY NEWS, NEW YORK