Diezani must face N17.6bn money laundering charges – Court
The Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday ordered a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, to appear for arraignment on money laundering charges preferred against her by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu gave the order in a ruling on an ex parte application shortly after it was moved by EFCC’s lawyer, Faruk Abdullah.
The judge ordered the defendant who was alleged to have fled to the United Kingdom shortly after leaving office in 2015, to appear in court to answer to the 13 counts of money laundering involving $39.7m (N14.29bn at N360 to $1) and N3.32bn said to be proceeds of unlawful activities.
Justice Ojukwu, in her ruling, ordered that the summons she issued on Friday should be published on the website of the EFCC and a national daily in a conspicuous manner.
The judge adjourned the case till October 28 for the defendant’s arraignment.
Due to Diezani’s absence, the judge had repeatedly adjourned the case, which was filed on November 11, 2018.
On November 12, 2019, the judge gave EFCC till March 10, 2020 to have the ex-minister extradited from the United Kingdom to Nigeria to face trial or the charges against her would be struck out.
The judge had said she would no longer allow the case to continue to clog her docket if no progress was being made.
At the March 10, 2020 proceedings, the judge noted that from her records, EFCC had not taken any step in respect of the case to either serve the ex-minister or apply for the issuance of an arrest warrant against her since the case was filed in November 2018.
She, however, backtracked on the threat to strike out the case after EFCC’s lawyer gave her an assurance that he would file an application for the court to issue criminal summons against the former minister.
Abdullah said he did not find it necessary to apply for an arrest warrant against the former minister since a similar order of arrest had been issued against her by the late Justice Valentine Ashi of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja.
He said the arrest warrant and the gratification charges filed before the late judge as well as the money laundering charges pending before Justice Ojukwu were filed as part of the extradition request sent to the UK authorities.
Abdullah informed the judge that Diezani rebuffed attempts by Nigerian authorities to serve documents in connection with the case on her in the UK.
He added, “We have submitted our extradition request to the UK authorities and we have done everything we needed to do.”
He then informed the judge that he would file an application for criminal summons against Alison-Madueke as hinted by the judge.
The EFCC subsequently filed an ex parte application for the summons which the judge granted on Friday.
In the application, the anti-corruption agency stated it had made futile efforts to question the former minister on her role in the award of Strategic Alliance Agreement to Septa Energy Limited, Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Limited and Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
The commission also said it sought to question her on her role in “the chartering of private jets by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and Ministry of Petroleum Resources and her role in the award of contracts by NNPC to Marine and Logistics Services Limited.”
It stated that it was investigating her business relationships with Mr Donald Amamgbo, Mr lgho Sanomi, Mr Afam Nwokedi, Chief lkpea Leemon, Miss Olatimbo Bukola Ayinde, Mr Benedict Peters, Christopher Aire, Harcourt Adukeh, Julian Osula, Dauda Lawal, Mr Leno Laithan, Sahara Energy Group and Midwestern Oil Limited.
The EFFC added that it needed to question the ex-minister on “her role in financing the 2015 general elections, particularly the money warehoused at a commercial bank in 2015 prior to the elections.”
The anti-graft agency said it equally wanted Alison-Madueke to speak on several items, documents and jewellery recovered from her house at No: 10, Chiluba Close, off Jose Marti Street, Asokoro, Abuja, and some identified properties linked to her in Nigeria, UK, United States of America, United Arab Emirates and South Africa.
The EFCC had on November 11, 2018, filed the 13 counts of money laundering accusing her of unlawfully taking into her possession, the sums of $39.7m (about N14.29bn) and N3.32bn when she reasonably ought to have known that the money formed part of the proceeds of unlawful activities.
She was said to have purchased choice landed assets with the money using different persons as fronts.
In September 2013, she allegedly used the name of Rusimpex Limited to acquire a property named Block B3 comprising of six penthouses and 18 flats at Zone N Federal Government Layout, also known as Bella Vista Estate, Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos, with the sum of $37.5m.
On June 4, 2012, she was said to have used the name of Azinga Meados Limited to buy 13 three-bedroomed terrace houses with one room maids’ quarters at Mabushi Gardens Estate, Abuja, with the sum of N650m.
In May 2012, she allegedly used the name of Chapel Properties to buy eight four-bedroomed terrace houses, two three-bedroomed penthouses, six three-bedroomed apartments, two three-bedroomed mansionette, two two-bedroomed apartments, one four-bedroomed apartment at No 4/6 Thorbun Avenue, and No 5 Raymond Street, Yaba, Lagos, with N937m.
She was also said to have in May 2012 purchased in the name of Blue Nile Estate Limited, 16 four-bedroomed terrace houses, at Plot 2C, Omerelu Street Diabu GRA, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, with N928m.
She was also said to have in January 2011 bought in the name of Vista Point Company Limited, six flats of three-bedrooms with one boys’ quarters each, lawn tennis court, gym, garden and appurtenances at 135 Awolowo Road/Bourdillon Road, Ikoyi, Lagos State, with N805m.
The ex-minster was also said to have in December 2011 bought in the name of Sequoyah Properties Limited a property at 12, Forces Avenue, Old GRA, Port Harcourt measuring 4,890 square meters with $2.2m.
Her alleged offences which she was said to have committed between November 20, 2011 and September 2013 were said to be contrary to section 15(2), (d) of the Money Laundering Act, 2011 (as amended) in 2012 and punishable under section 15(3) of the same Act.
Sagay blames UK for delay in Diezani’s trial
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof Itse Sagay, has blamed the United Kingdom for the delay in Diezani’s trial, noting that the country had all the evidence it needed for her prosecution.
He said he could not understand why the British government failed to put her in the dock despite several assurances, adding that the EFCC had supplied the necessary documents for her trial.
In a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Friday, Sagay stated, “I’m aware that the British government gave assurances that they were going to prosecute her; that they have restricted her movement, that they were investigating and once they have enough materials, they would prosecute her.
“I’m also aware that the EFCC has supplied materials to support her prosecution in England. But for some strange reasons which I cannot understand from these developed countries where they are supposed to have the highest standard in the world, and then they behave in a manner that is contrary to their reputation.
“For some strange reasons, they never got to the point of prosecuting her after over five years there. That is why the government here got desperate and decided to make a move instead of waiting. In a way, it is the fault of the British government which has caused the EFCC to relax and wait for her to be investigated and then prosecuted.”
The PACAC chairman further disclosed that a British official informed him that the ex-petroleum minister was restricted from moving out of London as they had placed an electronic device on her, “so she could not even travel out of the country.”
On the orders of the court directing Diezani to appear for trial, Sagay explained that from his knowledge of the law, the person to be prosecuted ought to be within the jurisdiction and should be arraigned, make a plea and be available to defend himself or herself.
He added, “But where the person is a fugitive as is the case of Diezani, what you do is to go the country where she is residing and apply for her to be extradited back to your country where she has committed the offence. I don’t know why the EFCC is not going through that process.”