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“‘First time someone big’ was jailed for stealing from Africans” – Strive Masiyiwa

Derick Matsengarwodzi    HARARE – Players in the ‘axis of evil’ often incorporate sophisticated methods to siphon state funds.   ...

Derick Matsengarwodzi 
HARARE Players in the ‘axis of evil’ often incorporate sophisticated methods to siphon state funds.  

As Masiyiwa exclusively reveals more on this syndicate, Tinzwei brings you the sequence of events on how clandestine organisations formulate methods to make illegal ‘profits’ using state resources.  

The axis of evil 
 “The state government of Akwa Ibom held 15% of the equity in Econet Wireless Nigeria. After five years, the state governor decided to sell its stake and had more than doubled. The governor, Victor Attah invited me to London to find out if I was interested in exercising Econet’s right to buy its shares.”

He pronounced his offer saying: “I want to sell the shares to build an airport before I leave office.” A British lawyer, Bhadresh Gohil accompanied him and was instructed to handle the negotiations.

“A few days later, I went to his office with a professional banker who advised me on such transactions. He was confident and smooth-spoken as he explained how much we were expected to pay.

He explained that our money was to go to a “Special Purpose Vehicle” (SPV) before it was transferred to Nigeria. It was a sophisticated structure and he showed me how it would work. I wrote it all in my notebook.”

“Such entities as SPVs can have legitimate purposes, but this one did not, adds Masiyiwa, “as I quizzed him about why such an unusual structure was necessary, he changed tact and tried to entice me with an offer I could not refuse.”

Partners in crime
 “I'm also the advisor to the governor of Delta State, Mr James Ibori and if you agree to pay for these shares using this structure, we will offer you shares belonging to all the state governments. In total, you can have more than 30% additional shares. It will be enough to take control of the company. My clients just want out, and they are willing to give you what you have always wanted,” the lawyer stated.

From the onset, Masiyiwa knew that this setup was meant to siphon off money before it reached state governments – probably $100 million.

Victor Attah claimed ignorance on the Gohil proposal when he was quizzed. The two later ‘vanished’.

“A few months later the shares were snapped by a Middle East entity. I was not privy to how they did it except that they had violated my right to buy the shares,” says Masiyiwa
Events then started unfolding.   

“Three years later, our lawyers in London called me to meet with the Proceeds of Corruption Unit of the London Metropolitan Police – a special unit launched by the British to investigate corruption by foreign government officials who try to launder stolen money to the U.S. and the UK.

The officers asked me everything I knew about the sale of V-Mobile shares to Celtel (later Zain) in addition to my meetings with the governor of Akwa Ibom, and Mr Gohil. Later on, I gave them my diary in which I had recorded the details of my meeting that day with Mr Gohil,” reveals the philanthropist in details obtained by Tinzwei.

A “Witness to the Crown”
“Not long after my meeting with the Proceeds of Corruption Unit, Mr Gohil was arrested together with his partners. I later learned that when the Middle Eastern company bought the shares, some of the proceeds had been diverted using the Gohil structure. Some of the money was sent to a bank in London – alerting the British authorities of money laundering.”  

Investigations pointed towards Gohil and his associates. His offices were raided – and stashes of documents, including details of the SPV structures were retrieved. The governor of Akwa Ibom refused to clear his name – and all extradition requests were squashed by government officials.

Masiyiwa subsequently turned a “Witness to the Crown” on behalf of Nigerians.

“It would be the first time that ‘someone big’ went to jail (in a foreign country) for stealing money from Africans,” he wrote. – Tinzwei

• This text cannot be reproduced without prior consultation with the author. Derick Matsengarwodzi is a communication consultant, author – and founder of The Aloe Media. Let’s interact on: Facebook or Follow me on: or

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