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Vol 41 No 7

Published 31st March 2000


Offshore, offside

In a private investigation, a soccer star says he's uncovered a multi-billion dollar debt trading fraud and calls on the government to act

The determination of President Olusegun Obasanjo's government to probe the financial management of its military predecessors is to be tested by soccer star John Fashanu. He has launched a private investigation into a US$6 billion Nigerian debt buy-back scheme, claiming it was 'riddled with corruption'. The scheme was run from the Central Bank of Nigeria between 1988 and 1993, while General Ibrahim Babangida was President. On the face of it the scheme was a shrewd way of covertly buying back Nigeria's commercial debt at deep discounts. Babangida had pledged to reduce the debt substantially and did so. In 1992, Nigeria had agreed the terms for a 'Brady bond' deal - basically, an approved way of reducing the nominal value of debts that were never likely to be paid in full - which took some $5.5bn. of commercial debt off the books. Fashanu, who is also the United Nations' Children's Fund special envoy in London, was found innocent in 1998, along with Zimbabwean goalkeeper Bruce Grobelaar, of charges that they fixed British soccer league matches. Fashanu told Africa Confidential that his investigators (whose report was sent this week to senior Nigerian officials) had established that the scheme was a smokescreen behind which hundreds of millions of dollars were diverted into Swiss and Austrian accounts.

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