It was in 2007, in the British Virgin Islands, under the leadership of front-runners based in Cyprus - a tax haven so loved by Russians - that the company Semmous Lion Mining Ltd was created. Through Sergey Matveev, Dmitry Bakaev, she will settle down in Niger, under the regime of the late President Mamadou Tandja. Colliding with the presidency of Niger, it receives, according to a report from the US State Department, ten (10) mining exploration permits.
Semmous Lion Mining Ltd will however remain on the back burner under the military transition of 2010, before returning to the charge in 2012 under the regime of Issoufou Mahamadou, changing director in the person of the Australian Marcus Scott Reston. Three Russians by the names of Mihail Gamzin, Evgeny Roytman, Ivan Raylan, as well as the Nigerien Habib Paul Ibra Kabo join Sergey Matveev, Dmitry Bakaev to own the company.
In this Russian-flavored dossier, we discover Pierre Atepa Goudiaby, the Senegalese architectural magnate with a diplomatic passport on which is inscribed "special advisor to His Excellency the President of the Republic"; Frank Timis, well known in Africa for his scandals in the mining sector and the “water carriers” of the Nigerien authorities.
The Norbert Zongo Unit for Investigative Journalism in West Africa (CENOZO) in collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists tells you the story of this sulphurous Russian connection in the mining sector in Niger. (ICIJ), who have partnered with more than 600 journalists from 150 media outlets around the world to sift through 11.9 million confidential files involving dozens of countries.
An incestuous merry-go-round
It was through the Russian bank Gazprom Bank, an establishment sanctioned for its involvement in the laundering of billions of dollars of Russian money, that the two precursors from the Great Bear (Sergey Matveev, Dmitry Bakaev) created in 2007 the offshore company Semmous Lion Mining Ltd. They were introduced to the presidency of the Republic of Niger, the place where the granting of exploration permits is negotiated in violation of the Nigerian Mining Code, which nevertheless says that "the exploration permit is granted by decree of the Minister in charge of Mines on proposal from the Director of Mines to the applicant having presented an application in accordance with the requirements of the Mining Code and having sufficient technical and financial capacities ” .
Curiously the same year 2007 is created the company Atepa Group Russia in the name of the Senegalese Pierre Atepa Goudiaby. This company, thanks to its connections with certain personalities of the regime of former President Tandja, manages to obtain 5 (five) exploration permits (Touaret 1, 3 and 4; as well as Assara 4 and Dabala). Another company called River Universal Tradings, also obtains 5 (five) exploration permits (Touaret 1, 3 and 4; as well as Assara 4 and Dabala 5). These two companies (River Universal Tradings and Atepa Group Russia) transfer their licenses (10 in total) to Semmous Lion Mining Ltd.
Under the governance of Issoufou Mahamadou (from April 2011), the same operating mode of issuing mining permits known under the Tandja regime was continued. Thus in 2012, the Nigerien Habib Paul Ibra Kabo, along with 5 Russians, becomes co-owner of Semmous Lion Mining Ltd, as the document from the law firm Trident Trust Company says.
Contacted by us, Habib Paul Ibra Kabo said “that the company was not created. Nothing happened ” . “She did not receive a mining permit. I wanted to get into business with the Russians who were there, but it didn't work, ” he continued. When asked whether he has links with Pierre Atepa, Habib Paul Ibra Kabo will say that “it was for business”. And to add: "I have no links with him" .
Our sources report, however, that Habib Paul Ibra Kabo is an agent of the BCEAO (Central Bank of West African States) in Dakar. He would also be the son-in-law of Pierre Atepa Goudiaby and contrary to his statements, the company was indeed created.
In 2015, according to the documents consulted, the businessman Pierre Atepa Goudiaby, born June 30, 1947 as it is marked on his diplomatic passport, became co-owner of Semmous Lion Mining Ltd to which he transferred 5 permits through his company Atepa Group Russia.
So much for the story of the company Semmous Lion Mining Ltd which, according to a letter from the company , captured 7,000 square kilometers in Niger, which no longer exist according to the capture of the web page, below. The website says that a Nigerien man named Mohamed Yacoubou was deputy director.
These founders, Dmitry Bakaev and Sergey Matveev, will look to other horizons. The first takes the head of the company International Petroleum Ltd and thanks to its solid relations within the power of Issoufou, will remake several permits (Toulouk 2 and 4) which will be renewed in 2014. As for the second, Sergey Matveev, one He also finds him at the head of Pan African Minerals Ltd and as advisor to Frank Timis (Romanian-Australian businessman). According to a court decision , he acts as a “consultant in Niger”.
With their company PAN AFRICAN NIGER LTD, a subsidiary of PAN AFRICAN, Sergey Matveev and Frank Timis will obtain in July 2013 from President Issoufou, 4 (four) exploration permits for uranium and related substances on a perimeter of 1657.9 km2. It was the Minister of Mines and Industrial Development at the time, Omar Hamidou Tchiana, and the CEO of Pan African, Frank Timis who signed the agreement. Since then, it has been the status quo.
The company did not respect its commitments relating to the investments it was supposed to make. Worse, since October 7, 2017, the permits granted have reached the end of their first period of validity without the State of Niger renewing them.
According to our colleagues from the newspaper " Le Monde ", Frank Timis is a man with an obscure past who revolves around African heads of state. Its mining companies, several of which have gone bankrupt, have been accused of "corruption and disrespect for human rights". The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) for its part reports that Frank Timis has been twice convicted of supplying heroin in the 1990s and involved in a series of unsuccessful mining projects in West Africa.
“Of the two mining companies it has listed on the London Stock Exchange, one has been charged with human rights violations and the other has been hit with the largest fine ever imposed by the stock exchange, for misleading investors, ” reports BBC.
We sought the reaction of Minister Omar Hamidou Tchiana, co-signatory of the convention with Frank Timis, so that he could tell us under what circumstances this magnate with a dark past landed in Niger. Unfortunately he did not answer our phone calls. We also sought to join Abdoulkader Adou Adam aka "Kader Zouk", a close friend of certain personalities in power, to react to certain allegations which index him to have connections with the owners of Semmous Lion Mining Ltd, but he was unreachable.
In view of the above, we see that it is a very refined system involving “investors” and Nigerien authorities which has been set up in violation of the law in the granting of mining permits in Niger with projects under different shapes, which have never been realized. Is not this Russian breakthrough in Niger related to the scandal revealed by several colleagues on "a money laundering system which has allowed oligarchs, bankers and others to launder more than 20 billion dollars from Russia"? Mystery and rubber ball, as it were.
A survey carried out by Moussa AKSAR as part of the Pandora Papers under the coordination of the ICIJ and CENOZO.