Justice Chuka Obiozor of a Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered the permanent forfeiture of a $37.5 million (about N12 billion) mansion on Banana Island, Lagos, allegedly owned by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, to the Federal Government.
The court equally directed the permanent forfeiture of the sums of $2,740,197.96 and N84,537,840.70 realised as rents on the property to government. Justice Obiozor had earlier on July 19, upon the granting of an exparte application filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) directed the temporary forfeiture of the property designated as Building 3, Block B, Bella Vista Plot 1, Zone N, Federal Government Layout, Banana Island Foreshore Estate to the Federal Government.
The property containing 24 apartments, 18 flats and six penthouses was said to have been bought by Alison-Madueke in 2013. She was said to have acquired the property, making payment in cash. In making the temporary forfeiture order, Justice Obiozor directed its publication in a national newspaper.
He equally asked anyone interested in the property and funds to appear before him yesterday. However, at the resumed hearing of the matter on Monday, EFCC’s lawyer, Anselem Ozioko, informed the court that no one has come forward to claim the temporarily forfeited property and cash despite the publication of the order as directed by the court. He thereafter urged the court to direct the permanent forfeiture of the property and funds to the Federal Government.
In a short ruling on the lawyer’s request, the judge held: “In the face of the publication, which I find in Exhibit B of the affidavit of compliance before me and there being no responses from any interested party, I have no other option but to grant the orders as prayed.” Giving further insight into how the property was acquired, the anti-graft agency, in a 41-paragraph affidavit deposed to by one of its investigative officers, Abdulrasheed Bawa, averred that one Afamefuna Nwokedi, a lawyer, in connivance with Diezani, purposely incorporated a company, Rusimpex Limited, on September 11, 2013 to facilitate the alleged fraud scheme.
Bawa averred further that upon Nwokedi’s interrogation, he explained that he had approached Alison-Madueke for opportunities in the oil and gas industry with the exminister suggesting that owing to his profession, it will be better if he can delve into management of landed property. Bawa added that after accepting the offer, Nwokedi later registered Rusimpex Limited at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
A lawyer in his law firm, Adetula Ayokunle and a Russian, Vladmir Jourauleu, were listed as Directors of the company, while the address of Nwokedi’s law firm in Ikoyi, Lagos, was registered as the business address of Rusimpex Limited.
The deponent added that when Ayokunle was questioned by EFCC, he explained that he only appended his signature on the CAC documents at Nwokedi’s instruction, while Jourauleu denied knowledge of the company.
“Sometime in 2013, the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, invited Nwokedi, the Principal Counsel of Stillwaters Law Firm, to her house in Abuja for a meeting where she informed him to incorporate a company and use same as a front to manage landed properties on her behalf without using her name in any of the incorporation documents. “She further directed Mr. Nwokedi to meet with Mr. Bisi Onasanya, the Group Managing Director of First Bank of Nigeria Plc, for that purpose.
“Mr. Stephen Onasanya was invited by the Commission and he came and volunteered an extrajudicial statement wherein he stated that he marketed a property at Bella Vista, Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos, belonging to Mr. Youseff Fattau of Ibatex Nigeria Limited to Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke and she later bought the property from Fattau, through her lawyer, Mr. Nwokedi (whom she introduced to him) and that payment for the said property was made through the Abuja office of First Bank of Nigeria Plc.
“First Bank of Nigeria Plc., through Mr. Barau Muazu, wrote to the Commission and also volunteered an extrajudicial statement in writing that they made the payments totalling $37.5 million to Ibatex Nigeria Limited & YF Construction Development and Real Estate Limited on behalf of Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke and that they collected the entire cash from Diezani at her residence of No. 10, Fredrick Chiluba Close, off Jose Marti Street, Asokoro, Abuja and paid into the First Bank of Nigeria Plc. accounts of Ibatex and YF Construction Development and Real Estate Limited on her instruction,” the deponent averred.
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