One of the African leaders at the forefront of President Barack Obama’s Africa summit headed a bank that was fined eight figures for violating money-laundering regulations and is closely associated with the foundations of liberal billionaire George Soros and the Clinton family.
Nigerian Tony Elumelu—a "banking titan" and one of Africa’s richest men—is acting as a spokesperson for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit this week. He penned an op-ed last week in the Wall Street Journal calling the event a "defining moment" for both the African continent and "for the United States as it formally recognizes the strategic importance of Africa."
He started his career by growing United Bank of Africa (UBA) from a small struggling Nigerian bank into a leading financial services institution with worldwide operations. Now he runs one of Africa’s largest investment firms and a foundation that has partnered with the Clinton Global Initiative and has ties to others in America’s left.
In 2010, however, Elumelu was forced to leave UBA when the former Nigerian President Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua enacted a law that limited the number of years any CEO of a major Nigerian bank could hold that position. Yar’Adua came from the banking industry and knew that it was corrupt and "needed to be sanitized."
Before he left UBA, the bank was forced to pay a $15 million fine to the U.S. Treasury Department for failing to comply with anti-money-laundering rules at its New York branch.
UBA failed to report suspicious transactions by the Central Bank of Nigeria in its New York branch to the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.
The fine was tied to Elumelu’s position on the board of the African Finance Corporation (AFC), a multinational project designed to develop infrastructure across Africa. Central Bank moved close to $300 million of AFC money to an account in UBA’s New York branch. The money was used in short-term investments in New York for business that was unrelated with that of the stated mission of AFC.
Subsquently, the AFC project originator, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria Charles Chukwuma Soludo, was found guilty by the Minister of Justice for "money laundering and abuse of office among myriads of financial misdoings" relating to the operation of the AFC.
Elumelu has tried to distance himself from the financial corruption in Nigeria’s banking sector, despite his direct involvement in it.
In 2012, he made an appeal for Nigeria to be talked about more positively, rather than with a focus on the rampant corruption.
"Without sounding a bit defensive, I think we tend to over bloat this issue of corruption in Nigeria and in fact, almost all the speakers who have spoken today are talking about corruption," Elumelu said at a economic summit in Nigeria. "Yes some people are corrupt in Nigeria, a country of about 170 million people; we have one, two, or five per cent that are corrupt."
Transparency International rates Nigeria as "highly corrupt" and finds that it ranks 144 out of 177 on its corruption index.
After leaving UBA, Elumelu founded Heirs Holdings Limited, an investment holdings company that invests in African companies, and the Tony Elumelu Foundation in 2010. His investment company gained notoriety last November when, in just three weeks, Elumelu made $123 million off Transcorp PLC, a conglomerate with holdings in a diverse range of African sectors, according to Forbes.
Elumelu founded the Tony Elumelu Foundation with the goal of "enhancing the competitiveness of the African private sector."
Sitting on the advisory board of Elumelu’s foundation is one of left-wing billionaire George Soros’ closest associates, Stewart Paperin, who was executive vice president of Soros’ Open Society Foundations and president of the Soros Economic Development Fund.
Also on Elumelu’s advisory board is billionaire Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, a longtime political supporter of the Clintons. She hosted the first political event Hillary Clinton attended in 2014, a fundraiser for Chelsea Clinton’s mother-in-law Marjorie Margolies, who was running for a House seat in Pennsylvania.
De Rothschild has called Obama a "loser" and said that he "will be devastating for the country."
"He's so vain and he's so convinced of his own transcendence as a solution to everything that he's incapable of doing the right thing for the country," de Rothschild said of Obama in 2011.
Elumelu has built a strong relationship with both Bill and Hillary Clinton and their Clinton Global Initiative. In 2012, CNN described Elumelu as the "darling of the Clinton Global Initiative."
Former President Clinton is involved in the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit as well, hosting the opening session of Tuesday morning’s business forum. Clinton said that American business is "missing the boat" and that investing in Africa is a "massive opportunity for American business."
Clinton was a keynote speaker at de Rothschild’s own conference earlier this year, where Elumelu also spoke.
Elumelu’s foundation was spotlighted in President Clinton’s Time magazine article "How To Save the World" as the prime example of a CGI partner organization that is "solving the world's problems."
Elumelu has been a regular speaker at CGI events over the years. He used the 2011 CGI annual conference to announce the launch of a new ratings system that measures the "social and environmental impact" of investment portfolios.
The system is funded in part by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which fostered a relationship with Elumelu while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.
Under Clinton, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah traveled to Nigeria for a town hall hosted by the Tony Elumelu Foundation. He is now an advisor for USAID’s Private Capital Group for Africa.
Elumelu was an attendee at the official United Kingdom book release party of Hillary Clinton’s latest memoir, Hard Choices. Clinton was pictured alongside Elumelu and de Rothschild at the event.
Obama spoke at the summit on Tuesday and announced plans for $14 billion in U.S. corporate investment in Africa.