Ex-minister ‘acquired properties in associates’ names’
Former Petroleum Resources Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke is likely to lose some United States properties traced to her.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is probing Mrs Alison-Madueke for over $10 billion slush funds. It has initiated a process for the seizure of the assets – in line with United States laws.
EFCC Chairman Ibrahim Magu has just returned from the United States where he discussed with the authorities how to attach the properties, The Nation learnt yesterday.
In the last one year, the EFCC has traced assets and items worth about $10billion to Mrs. Alison-Madueke and her business associates, Mr. Kola Aluko and Chief Jide Omokore.
Some of the assets include an $18million peoperty (over N6.3billion at N350 exchange rate) in Abuja.
A top EFCC source, who spoke in confidence, said: “We have located some assets allegedly owned by Diezani and some of her business associates in the United States. We are already collaborating with the US Government to attach these assets.
“In fact, the EFCC chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, spent about one and a half weeks in the US to work with the relevant agencies to trace Diezani’s properties, some of which are believed to have been secured through business fronts like Kola Aluko. “We have submitted relevant documents to the US authorities in order to facilitate the seizure of the assets.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “Some of these properties were acquired through some business fronts like Aluko and Omokore. “We even have a in which houses on a street in Switzerland have been traced to an associate of Diezani.” The EFCC is working with anti-graft agencies in Britain and the United States.
“Don’t forget that the EFCC initially secured a Mareva Injunction from Justice O.O. Oguntoyinbo to freeze some foreign accounts and seize some assets linked with Diezani’s associates in the United Kingdom,” the source said.
Accounts have been frozen in some of overseas financial institutions. They include BNP Paribas (Switzerland), LGT Bank (Switzerland), Standard Chartered Bank (London),Barclays Bank (London), Standard Energy (Voduz, Switzerland), HSBC (London), Corner Bank (Lugano, Switzerland) and Deutsche Bank (Geneva).
Section 34 (1) of the EFCC Act 2004 empowers the Commission to freeze any account suspected of being used for financial crimes. The section stipulates that “the chairman of the commission or any officer authorised by him may, if satisfied that the money in the account of a person is made through the commission of an offence under this Act or any enactment specified under Section 6(2) (a)-(f) of this Act, apply to the court ex parte for power to issue or instruct a bank examiner or such other appropriate authority to freeze the account.”
The National Crime Agency (NCA) in the UK arrested and quizzed Mrs Alison-Madueke and four others on October 2, 2015 for alleged bribery, corruption and money laundering. Also the EFCC has interrogated five more suspects since her interrogation. The NCA last year obtained permission from a Westminster Magistrate’s Court to seize 27,000 pounds from Alison-Madueke and two other women.
Although NCA detectives have visited the country this year in line with the probe, it was unclear as at press time when she will be formally arraigned in court in the UK. While the UK investigation was in progress, the EFCC uncovered another $115million poll bribery scam in which the ex-minister was implicated.
But Mrs Alison-Madueke has described allegations against her as “cold-hearted” and inhuman because she is ill.
Her statement said in part: “Coming at such a critical time in my life when I am battling cancer, this poorly executed propaganda bares on its face like tribal marks, a clearly malicious attempt to victimise an innocent woman in what appears an exaggerated plot to validate and give credibility to the anti-corruption crusade under Nigeria’s new regime. “People who are battling cancer or those who have lost their loved ones to this medical condition understand what I am going through at this time.
“This is what makes me ponder at the cold-heartedness of those who will go any length to defame and destroy in the name of propaganda. What happened to our shared humanity? ”I have absolute regard for the law and believe that people who have breached the laws that govern societies should be made to face the wrath of the law.
“But in a civilized society, a responsible government owes its citizens absolute commitment to the principles of rule of action know it.law, equity, fairness and justice. I have been wrongfully and maliciously maligned and those behind this reckless “I leave them to posterity, their conscience and above all the Almighty God who is the final judge of all.”