*Ex-minister’s accounts frozen
31 May 2016, Abuja — As part of the ongoing probe and preparation for the arraignment of a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, some investigators from the United Kingdom have visited Nigeria to gather evidence.
The ex-minister is under investigation over the missing $20billion oil cash, phoney crude oil lifting contracts, $115million poll bribery money, the $1.092b Malabu oil deal and the N5.2billion ($25m) oil cash paid by an Indian oil firm for an oil block
The UK team inspected the former minister’s multi-billion naira mansion, her £600,000 exotic wristwatch and gold and diamond jewelry which have been confiscated.
There were indications last night that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has also frozen Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s bank accounts.
The commission may attach some assets of the ex-minister under the Interim Forfeiture Order in Sections 26 and 29 of the EFCC Act, The Nation learned.
The UK investigators came into the country as part of the build-up to the trial of the ex-minister in London.
Mrs. Alison-Madueke and four others were arrested in London on October 2, 2015, by the National Crime Agency( NCA).
The NCA said all the suspects were released on “conditional police bail, pending further investigation both in the UK and overseas”.
A source who confirmed the visit said it was the “continuation of the London end of the investigation of the ex-minister.”
Besides restricting her movement to the UK, a London (Westminster Magistrate’s Court) on Marylebone Road had approved the seizure of $41,000 (£27,000) cash from Mrs. Alison-Madueke.
“With the outcome of the fact-finding mission of the UK team, I think so far, the investigation has reached a convenient bend for the prosecution of the ex-minister,” the source said, pleading not to be named because of the “sensitivity” of the matter.
An EFCC source confirmed that the former minister’s accounts in some major banks had been frozen. “It is too early to disclose the amounts involved in order not to prejudice the investigation. We are discovering more on daily basis as some complicit banks are now cooperating,” he said, adding:
“We are allowed by law to place suspicious accounts and assets under interim forfeiture until the court decides otherwise.
“We are collaborating with anti-graft agencies in other jurisdictions on her case.”
Sections 26 and 29 of the EFCC Act on forfeiture read: “Any property subject to forfeiture under this Act may be seized by the commission in the following circumstances- (a) the seizure is incidental to an arrest or search; or (b) in the case of property liable to forfeiture upon process issued by the Court following an application made by the Commission in accordance with the prescribed rules
“Whenever property is seized under any of the provisions of this Act, the Commission may-(a) place the property under seal; or (b) remove the property to a place designated by the Commission.
“Properties taken or detained under this section shall be deemed to be in the custody of the Commission, subject only to an order of a court.”
There is an ongoing probe by the EFCC of Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s involvement in a $115m (N23, 299,705,000billion) 2015 poll bribery scandal.
The anti-graft agency has quizzed Managing Director of Fidelity Bank Plc, Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo and the bank’s Head of Operations, Martin Izuogbe in connection with the scandal.
Four companies, according to the investigation by the anti-graft agency, allegedly gave the following amount to the bank for use to bribe officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Northern Belt Gas Company Limited ($60m); Auctus Integrated($17,884,000); Midwestern Oil and Gas($9.5m); and Leno Laitan Adesanya ($1.85m).
“The ex-minister sent $25.77million(approximately $26m) to bring the total amount to $115million( N23, 299,705,000billion).
Mrs. Alison- Madueke has twice in six months appeared before a London court to answer charges regarding the £27,000 money laundering and bribery allegation made against her by the NCA.
She will be returning to the court again in September, after the Westminster Magistrate court granted the request of the NCA on March 31, 2016, for another six months to enable the Agency gets more time to tighten its case.
Mrs. Madueke will be on bail along with her mother Mrs. Beatrice Agama who is the lead suspect; son, Ugonna Madeueke, family friend Ms. Melanie Spencer, the wife of a Ghanaian oil tycoon, Kevin Okyere till when the court reconvenes in September to decide on a direction for the case.
It is typical of the NCA drawing its motivation from the Proceeds of Crime Act to always ask for more time for its investigations so it can build a water tight case.
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 investigation is now global extending to Nigeria and Switzerland where billionaire Businessman Kola Aluko was questioned and home raided on the request of the NCA.
Aluko, who has Swiss nationality and owner of Atlantic Energy had some oil deals with NNPC while Madueke was in charge. He is believed to be a key figure in the money laundering network.
Atlantic Energy signed a lucrative strategic alliance in 2011 with NNPC while Madueke was in charge of Petroleum Ministry giving it rights to sell oil from four big blocks on behalf of Nigeria. Before the oil price crashed, Aluko said the commercial value of the contract was estimated at $7bn.
*Yusuf Ali – Nation