2023: Tinubu’s Chicago Affair That Won’t Go Away
Bola Tinubu held town hall meetings with different groups in Niger and Nasarawa states. But the dominant news about him centred on his affairs in Chicago, about 30 years ago.
Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate of Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is once again facing scrutiny over a 1993 money laundering and drug-related case in the United States.
A certified true copy of the over 30-year-old case resurfaced on social media last week. And the opponents of Mr Tinubu have leapt on it. Daniel Bwala, the spokesperson of the Atiku Abubakar campaign, even suggested that it could lead to the disqualification of Mr Tinubu.
However, Mr Tinubu’s camp has dismissed it as stale news. Bayo Onanuga, one of the APC presidential campaign spokespersons, described it as “dead as dodo”.
Mr Tinubu himself has refused to speak on the matter. In Nasarawa State, while speaking at a town hall meeting with miners, he said he would not respond to ugly rumours.
A flashback on the case…..
According to the certified copy of the case, on 10 January, 1992, Magistrate Judge Rosemond of the Northern District of Illinois granted the prayer for the seizure of funds in 10 bank accounts belonging to Mr Tinubu because the US government had reasons to believe the accounts were linked to narcotic related operations.
The 10 accounts were opened at First Heritage Bank and Citi Bank in Chicago in the late 80s to early 90s.
“On January 10, 1992, applications for seizure warrants were presented to Magistrate Judge Rosemond of the Northern District of Illinois. After considering the applications and the attached affidavits, Magistrate Judge Rosemond issued seizure warrants for accounts at First Heritage Bank and Citibank in the name of Bola Tinubu. The amount Of money seized from these accounts exceeded 1.4 million dollars,” it reads.
In an affidavit he deposed to, Kevin Moss, a special agent with the US Internal Revenue Service, stated that Mr Tinubu had a link to two Chicago drug kingpins, Adegboyega Mueez Akande and Abiodun Agbele.
Mr Moss had stated that there is a connection between Mr Tinubu and the two suspected drug kingpins, particularly Mr Akande. The agent also stated that Mr Tinubu’s wife, Oluremi Tinubu, who is currently a senator, had a joint account with the wife of Mr Akande, Audrey.
The official also provided other links between Messrs Tinubu and Akande, including sharing of home address in Chicago. Also, Mr Moss questioned the inflow into the accounts vis a vis the income of Mr Tinubu as a staff of Mobil.
“According to bank records, Bola Tinubu also opened a joint checking account in his name and the name of his wife, Oluremi Tinubu, Oluremi Tinubu previously opened a joint bank account also at this bank with Audrey Akande, the wife of Adegboyega Mueez Akande,” he said.
“According to records from Citibank International, there were two additional corporate accounts held in the name of Compass Finance and Investment Company, Ltd. which were controlled by Bola Tinubu.
“The bank records from these accounts in the international division disclosed that when Bola Tinubu opened these accounts at Citibank, International, he provided certain corporate documents from Compass Finance and Investment Company Ltd. including documents identified as a memorandum of association and articles of association. Both corporate documents identified Mueez Adegboyega Akande and Abiodun Olasuyi Abele as directors of Compass Finance and Investment Company, Ltd.”
According to Mr Moss, Mobil representatives were interviewed and they stated that Mr Tinubu’s position as Treasurer of the company does not involve the transfer of large sums of money across banks.
“Representatives from Mobil Oil were interviewed regarding Tinubu’s employment status. The representatives confirmed that Tinubu was employed by Mobil Oil Nigeria Ltd. as a treasurer. This position, however, does not involve the transfer of large amounts of money between banking institutions.
“Mobil Oil representatives stated that under no circumstances 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,” he stated.
However, the US government subsequently agreed to a settlement with Mr Tinubu alongside KO Tinubu (individually and on behalf of the Tinubu family) and Alhaji Mogati.
The agreement was reached in August 1993 when Mr Tinubu was a senator in Nigeria.
The US government agreed to release the funds, however, $460,000 is to be forfeited to the government.
“The parties agree that the funds held by Citibank shall be released to K.O. Tinubu and the action filed against these funds held in the accounts by Citibank shall be dismissed with prejudice.
“The parties further agree that $460,000 from the defendant account held by Heritage Bank in the name of Bola Tinubu shall be forfeited by the United States and disposed of according to law. The funds remaining in the account shall be released to K. O. Tinubu,” an excerpt of the terms of the agreement reads.
It is worth adding that Mr Tinubu was not indicted in the court document seen by PREMIUM TIMES.
2003 and the letter from the US consulate
The same case first surfaced in 2003, when Mr Tinubu was seeking re-election as Governor of Lagos State. However, a letter from the US consulate to the then Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun, doused the matter.
The Legal Attache to the US consulate, Michael Bonner, had in response to a letter from Mr Balogun, stated that Mr Tinubu has no record of criminal indictment or prosecution.
The letter, dated February 4, 2003, with reference 011-234-1-261-0097 ext 244, and addressed to the then IGP, Mr Balogun, stated that “The FBI never charged Tinubu with any drug offence; the case did not go on trial. Tinubu was never convicted. And he was never barred from entering the US.”
“In relation to your letter dated February 3, 2003, reference number SR. 3000/IGPSEC/ABJ
/VOL. 24/287, regarding Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a record check of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) National Crime Information Center (NCIC) was conducted.
“The results of the checks were negative for any criminal arrest records, wants, or warrants for Bola Ahmed Tinubu (DOB 29 March, 1952). For information of your department, NCIC is a centralized information centre that maintains the records of every criminal arrest and conviction within the United States and its territories,” it reads in part.
$460,000 is tax – Festus Keyamo
One of the spokespersons of the APC presidential campaign council, Festus Keyamo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, while appearing on Channels TV, claimed that the $460,000 was tax charged on funds in the banks.
“The deposits he made there (in banks) are what bankers called investments; he kept the money there and he was getting interests. They (the US government) said he had not paid tax on those interests. That is all and guess what? The banks are supposed to deduct the tax from the source.
“Out of the 10 accounts, it was only one account – the one in Heritage Bank – that they took $460,000 as tax on interest that he benefited on the investment he made in those accounts,” he said.
Contrary to that claim, however, nowhere in the court document was the forfeited sum referred to as a tax.
Chicago affair taking shine off town hall meetings
In the past week, the Chicago affairs dominated the news and took the shine away from other issues, particularly the town hall meetings Mr Tinubu held with different groups in two states.
Last week, Mr Tinubu was with miners and agro-processing industry players, where he talked about his plans for the sector. Despite his attempts to dismiss the drug-related affair, it still dominated the news wave.
“We shall allow the desperate, devoid-of-substance campaigns of others to engage in divisive identity politics and the promotion of untruths and ugly rumours,” Mr Tinubu said in Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital.
Mr Tinubu, who has been avoiding debates with other candidates, has adopted town hall meetings with different sectors. Instead of the public conversation being centred around his plans should he be elected president, a lot of Nigerians are seeking clarification on the 30-year-old case.
Further, in the last five days, the three spokespersons of the PCC, Femi Fani-Kayode, Mr Onanuga and Mr Keyamo have all had to react to the matter.
On Friday, the campaign was hit by fake news that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was investigating the case. The commission later in a statement debunked the claim.
The campaign, in a statement issued by Mr Onanuga, called on the police to investigate the circulation of the forged INEC statement and serve justice to those responsible.
One thing is clear, the Chicago affair is not going away soon.