Court orders interim forfeiture of 24 apartments, 18 flats, 6 penthouses Ex-minister loses $2.74m, N84.5m rent.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday narrated how a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, paid $37.5 million (N12 billion) in cash to acquire a property at Banana Island in Lagos.
The property designated as Building 3, Block B, Bella Vista Plot 1, Zone N, Federal Government Layout, Banana Island Foreshore Estate, containing 24 apartments, 18 flats and six penthouses was said to have been bought by Alison-Madueke in 2013.
A lawyer to the anti-graft agency, Anselem Ozioko, told Justice Chuka Obiozor of a Federal High Court in Lagos that the former minister made the payment in cash by moving the $37.5 million straight from her house in Abuja and paid into the seller’s account with a first generation bank in Abuja.
The bank, according to EFCC, collected the entire cash from Diezani’s residence at No. 10, Fredrick Chiluba Close, off Jose Marti Street, Asokoro, Abuja and paid into the accounts of the property seller, Ibatex and YF Construction Development and Real Estate Limited, on the minister’s instruction.
While arguing an application, which was filed pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act, No. 14, 2006 and Section 44 (2)(k) of the Constitution seeking to temporarily forfeit the property to the Federal Government, EFCC added that the anti-graft agency reasonably suspected that the property was acquired with proceeds of unlawful activities of Alison-Madueke.
Listed as respondents in the application were the former minister, a lawyer, Afamefuna Nwokedi and a company, Rusimpex Limited.
The lawyer said: “Nothing could be more suspicious than someone keeping such huge amounts in her apartment. Why was she doing that? To avoid attention?
“We are convinced beyond reasonable doubt because as of the time this happened, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke was still in public service as the Minister of Petroleum Resources.”
He then urged the court to grant the Commission’s request.
After listening to Anselem’s submissions, Justice Obiozor ordered the temporary forfeiture of the property to the Federal Government.
Apart from the property, the court also ordered the temporary forfeiture of the sums of $2,740,197.96 and N84,537,840.70, said to be part of the rent collected on the property. The fund was said to have been domiciled in a new generation bank account.
While adjourning further hearing in the matter to August 7, Justice Obiozor directed that the order should be published in a national newspaper.
The judge equally asked anyone interested in the property and funds to appear before him on the next adjourned date.
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 of the respondents, Nwokedi, in connivance with Diezani, purposely incorporated a company, Rusimpex Limited, on September 11, 2013 to facilitate the alleged fraud scheme.
Bawa further averred that upon Nwokedi’s interrogation, he explained that he had approached Diezani for opportunities in the oil and gas industry with the ex-minister 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.
“Sometimes in 2013, the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, invited Barrister Afamefuna Nwokedi, the Principal Counsel of Stillwaters Law Firm, to her house in Abuja for a meeting where she informed the said Barrister Afamefuna Nwokedi 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. Afamefuna Nwokedi to meet with the Group Managing Director of the bank for that purpose.
“He 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, Nwokedi (who she introduced to him) and that payment for the said property was made through the Abuja office of a first generation bank.
“The bank wrote to the commission and also volunteered an extrajudicial statement in writing that they made the payments totalling $37,500,000 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 Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke at her residence of No. 10, Fredrick Chiluba Close, off Jose Marti Street, Asokoro, Abuja and paid into the bank accounts of Ibatex and YF Construction Development and Real Estate Limited on her instruction,” the deponent averred.
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