EFCC arrests Sterling, Access bank MDs over former petroleum minister’s loot

*Sterling Bank of Nigeria, Yemi Adeola.

*Sterling Bank of Nigeria, Yemi Adeola.

*Diezani goes back to court over corruption allegation

Oscarline Onwuemenyi

07 May 2016, Sweetcrude, Houston, Texas – Agents of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, yesterday raided the offices of Sterling Bank Plc in Lagos to search for documents related to “a large-scale fraud,” according to a source at the anti-corruption agency.

Operatives of the Commission said they traced more than $88 million to a hidden account controlled by the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Sterling Bank of Nigeria, Yemi Adeola.

One EFCC source said that the $88 million found at Sterling Bank was separate from the $115m given to Fidelity Bank by the ex-oil minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke. The funds were used to bribe officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to rig the 2015 presidential election for ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.

The source further disclosed that Mr. Adeola had kept the $88m as an “off-record” transaction.

He noted that the money was transferred to Mr. Adeola from Fidelity Bank of Nigeria whose managing director, Nnamdi Okonkwo, was last week detained by the EFCC. Mr. Okonkwo last was granted bail late yesterday.

The source declined to provide specific details about the nature of the alleged fraud but told our correspondent that the EFCC decided to send operatives to comb through bank documents after careful investigation.

Later yesterday, EFCC agents arrested the bank’s managing director, Yemi Adeola, and he is said to still be in custody.

“We arrested the MD, and he remains in our [EFCC] custody undergoing interrogation,” a source within the agency disclosed.

The source added that the EFCC has no plans, for now, to reveal the reasons for Mr. Adeola’s arrest so as not to alert others who may have collaborated with the MD on the matters being investigated by the anti-corruption agency.

Officials of the EFCC also raided the headquarters of Access Bank Plc. in Lagos, and arrested the bank’s managing director, Herbert Wigwe.

An EFCC source disclosed that Mr. Wigwe was quizzed regarding funds laundered through the bank by officials of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

Our EFCC source stated that the source of some questionable funds located in the bank was also traced to former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke.

The source disclosed that the Access Bank MD received $5 million that was routed through Zenith Bank.

Meanwhile, former Minister of Petroleum Resources Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke yesterday returned to the Westminster Magistrate’s Court in London to answer for money laundering and bribery allegations. She was first arraigned in the court last October.

Mrs Alison-Madueke was arrested along with four others by the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency (NCA). She was granted bail and told to come back today for a decision to be taken on the £27,000 seized cash and other charges made against her.

The court ruled in October 2015 that the cash can be held for six months before she is arraigned after investigations.

The court also granted the order that she should remain in London while investigations last.

The NCA, which leads the UK law enforcement’s fight to cut serious and organised crime, is working in league with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the probe of the former minister.

While Mrs Alison-Madueke was battling arrest in London, her Abuja home was raided by the EFCC while her partners were stalked by the Interpol in Switzerland.

The NCA has national and international reach and the mandate and powers to work in partnership with other law enforcement organisations to bring serious and organised criminals to justice.

The Proceeds of Crime Act says: “The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (“POCA”) sets out the legislative scheme for the recovery of criminal assets with criminal confiscation being the most commonly used power.

“Confiscation occurs after a conviction has taken place. Other means of recovering the proceeds of crime, which do not require a conviction, are provided for in the Act, namely civil recovery, cash seizure and taxation powers.

The NCA found some of the ex-minister’s brothers and other business partners complicit in the money laundering allegation. She was arrested with her brothers.

Messrs Abiye Agama and Somye Agama are Mrs Diezani siblings who operate some UK-based businesses that were hurriedly shut after the NCA and the EFCC searchlight became intense.

The two brothers are directors of Hadley Petroleum Solutions Limited, a company the authorities believe to have been used for money laundering. The other directors are Ugonna Madueke and Abu Fari.

The company was registered in June 2013 in Manchester, but was dissolved less than two years later last February without filing any account.

Abiye, 33, a point man of the firm, is a computer engineer and manager. He was a director in 11 other companies. He resigned from seven of them.

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