Corruption accusations fly on former Nigerian oil minister

Source: Xinhua| 2017-08-12 03:39:52|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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by Bosun Awoniyi

LAGOS, Aug. 11 (Xinhua) -- The Nigerian government has revealed details of cash and properties traced to a former minister of petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke.

The government, through its anti-graft agency, accuses the former minister of looting the nation's treasury and acquiring properties running into millions of U.S. dollars.

Since leaving office in 2015, Alison-Madueke has been implicated in bribery, fraud, misuse of public funds, and money laundering cases in Nigeria, Britain, Italy, and the United States.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), in a strongly worded statement, on Thursday said 47.2 billion naira and 487.5 million dollars in cash and properties in Lagos, Nigeria's economic hub, and Abuja, the nation's capital, have been traced to her.

The Nigerian central bank on Friday put the national currency's exchange rate at 1 U.S. dollar to about 305 naira.

Gold, silver and diamond jewelry, worth 7 million pounds sterling were recovered from one of her residences in Abuja, the EFCC said.

Among the properties traced to her are a 37.5-million-dollar property on Banana Island, Lagos, two apartments valued at 350 million dollars also on Banana Island, two properties valued at 1 billion naira in Yaba, Lagos and a 900 million naira property in oil rich city of Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the permanent forfeiture of the 37.5 million-dollar property, allegedly belonging to the former minister.

Justice Chuka Obiozor ordered the permanent forfeiture of the property to the government on Monday.

Justice Obiozor had on July 19 ordered the temporary forfeiture of the property after listening to an ex parte application brought by the EFCC's Head of Legal, Anselm Ozioko.

He also directed the EFCC to publish the order so that any interested party who does not want the money to be permanently forfeited to the government could appear in court within 14 days.

The justice also ordered Sterling Bank Plc to temporarily forfeit to the Federal Government a sum of 7,646,700,000 naira said to have been illegally kept in the bank's custody by the former minister.

The anti-graft agency said Diezani stashed the money in three banks, adding that the government had since February 2016, through an order by Justice Muslim Hassan of the Federal High Court, recovered part of the money from the other banks.

The anti-graft agency recalled that the Federal Government had recovered 23.4 billion naira, 5 million dollars and another 9.08 billion naira out of the 153.3 million dollars.

It urged the court to order Sterling Bank to deliver up to the government the 7.6 billion naira still in its custody.

In an eight-paragraph affidavit, an operative of the EFCC, Usman Zakari, averred that Diezani laundered the 7.6 billion naira in connivance with other officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

Ibrahim Magu, EFCC's acting chairman, said the EFCC is working with other agencies around the world to unearth more loots linked to Alison-Madueke.

"We are moving in and we will recover every loot linked to her," Magu said.

In 2015, Allison-Madueke was arrested by the National Crime Agency in London along with four other people and is being investigated for alleged bribery, corruption and money laundering.

She denied any wrong-doing when accused by then central bank governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who is now the Emir of Kano, of misappropriating 20 billion dollars in oil money.

Alison-Madueke served in 2010-2015 as Nigeria's first female minister of petroleum resources.