Court Orders Forfeiture Of Properties, Cash Linked To Diezani

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A Federal High Court on Wednesday ordered temporary forfeiture of the sum of $2,740,197. 96 and N84, 537,840.70 allegedly belonging to former Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke, to the Federal Government.

Justice Chuka Obiozor also ordered the Federal Government to take possession of the former minister’s properties, namely Building 3, Block B, Bella Vista, located at Plot 1, Zone N, Federal Government Layout, Banana Island Foreshore Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos.

The court gave the interim order while granting an ex parte application filed before it by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The anti-graft agency had brought the suit against Alison-Madueke, a lawyer and Principal Counsel of Stillwater Law Firm, Afamefuna Nwokedi (SAN), and a company, Rusimpex Limited.

According to the EFCC, the lawyer and the company were the conduits which the former minister allegedly used for channeling the money used in buying the seized property.

In an affidavit in support of the application deposed to by one AbdulRasheed Bawa, an investigator with the commission, the EFCC said sometimes in 2013, the former petroleum minister invited the lawyer for a meeting where she told him to incorporate a company and used same as front to manage landed properties on her behalf without having her name in any of the incorporation documents, and further directed the lawyer to meet with Bisi Onasanya, then Group Managing Director of First Bank Plc, for the said purpose.

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The deponent also stated that upon inviting Onasanya, he volunteered an extrajudicial statement wherein he stated that he marketed a property at Bella Vista, Banana Island, Lagos, belonging to Youseff Fattau of Ibatex Nigeria Limited to Diezani Allison Madueke, through her lawyer, Nwokedi (SAN), and the payment for the property was made through an Abuja branch of First Bank Plc.

In carrying out the alleged fraud, Nwokedi incorporated a company known as Rusimpex Limited on September 11, 2013 with its corporate office at 3-5, Oniru Road, Ikoyi, the same corporate address of Stillwater Law Firm.

The deponent added that the two directors of the company are Adetula Ayokunle, a lawyer in Nwokedi’s firm, who was allocated 9, 900 shares, and one Vladmir Jourauleu, a Russian.

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He, however, stated that at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), it was recorded that both Ayokunle and Jourauleu are the owners and shareholders of Rusimpex Limited, while the power of attorney and board resolution of the company revealed that Nwokedi (SAN) runs the affairs of the company and by extension the property in question.

The deponent also stated that the third respondent, Rusimpex Limited, paid a total sum of $37.500 million to YF Construction Development and Real Estate Limited as cost of the property.

The deponent, however, stated that upon investigation of the money from First Bank Plc, a staff of the bank, Barau Muazu, said the bank made the payment of $37.500 million to Ibatex Nigeria Limited and YF Construction Development and Real Estate Limited on behalf of Diezani Allison-Madueke, and that the bank collected the said sum in cash from the former minister at her residence, 10, Fredrick Chiluba Close, off Jose Martins Street, Asokoro, Abuja.

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After arguing the ex-parte application, counsel to EFCC, Ozioko, urged the court to grant the application.

Granting the application, Justice Obiozor ordered that the sum of $2,740,197.96 and another N84, 537,840. 70 and a building known as Building 3, Block B, Bella Vista, located at Plot 1, Zone N, Federal Government Layout, Banana Island Foreshore Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos, belonging to Diezani be temporary forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

The judge also ordered the anti-graft agency to publish in a national newspaper the forfeiture order for any interested person or persons to show cause within 14 days why the order should not be made permanent.

The court further granted an order authorising the EFCC in the interim to appoint a competent person(s)/firm to manage the asset/property situated at Building 3, Block B, Bella Vista, located at Plot 1, Zone N, Federal Government Layout, Banana Island, Foreshore Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos, pending the conclusion of investigation.

The matter has been adjourned till August 7 for further hearing.

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Hamilton Nwosa

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