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Diezani Forfeits $153m To FG

Diezani Alison-Madueke, former minister of petroleum, temporarily forfeited $153.3 million to the federal government on Friday.

This was sequel to an order by a federal high court in Lagos.

According to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the seized money was taken from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and stashed in three Nigerian banks in Nigeria, in US dollars and naira.

EFCC said that out of the money, N23.4 billion was kept in Sterling Bank Plc, N9.08 billion in First Bank Plc and $5m in Access Bank Plc.

Muslim Hassan, who gave the order, asked Sterling Bank and any other interested party to appear before him within 14 days to prove the legitimacy of the monies, failing which the funds would be permanently forfeited to the federal government.

The judge made the order in favour of the EFCC, which appeared before him today with an ex-parte application seeking the temporary forfeiture of the funds.

In a nine-paragraph affidavit by EFCC investigator, Moses Awolusi, and filed in support of the ex-parte application, the anti-graft agency said it discovered how, in December 2014, Diezani invited Nnamdi Okonkwo, a former managing director of Fidelity Bank Plc, to her office and they “hatched the plan of how $153,310,000 would be moved from NNPC to Okonkwo” to be saved for Diezani.

According to Awolusi, Diezani instructed Okonkwo to ensure that the money was “neither credited into any known account nor captured in any transaction platforms” of Fidelity Bank.

Okonkwo accepted and implemented the deal, leading to the movement of $153,310,000 from NNPC to Fidelity Bank.

He said two former group executive directors of finance and account at NNPC, B.O.N. Otti and Stanley Lawson, helped Diezani move the cash from NNPC Abuja to the headquarters of Fidelity Bank in Lagos.

Awolusi said in a desperate bid to conceal the source of the money, Okonkwo, upon receiving it, instructed Martin Izuogbe, country head of Fidelity Bank, to take $113,310,000 cash out of the money to Lanre Adesanya, executive director, commercial and institutional bank, Sterling Bank Plc, to keep.

He said the remaining $40m was taken in cash to Dauda Lawal, executive director, public sector accountant, First Bank, to keep.

The investigator said out of the $113,310,000 handed over to Adesanya, a sum of $108,310,000 was invested in an off balance sheet investment using Sterling Asset Management Trustees Limited.

The money was subsequently converted into N23.4 billion and saved in Sterling Bank.

Awolusi said the EFCC had recovered the N23.4bn in draft and had registered it as an exhibit marked, EFCC 01.

The investigator said the EFCC had also recovered another $5m out of the money kept with Herbert Wigwe, managing director of Access Bank Plc.

He said the $5m was recovered in draft and had been registered as an exhibit marked, EFCC 02.

According to him, First Bank’s executive director simply identified as Lawal, had similarly converted the $40m kept with him to N9,080,000,000.

Awolusi, however, said the EFCC had recovered that also in draft and registered it as Exhibit EFCC 03.

Moving the ex-parte application, Rotimi Oyedepo, counsel to the EFCC, urged the judge to order the temporary forfeiture of the funds to the federal government and to order Sterling Bank and Lawal, who were joined as defendants in the application, as well as any other interested parties, to appear in court within two weeks to show cause why the funds should not be permanently forfeited to the federal government.

Oyedepo, who said the application was brought pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act No. 14, 2006 and Section 44(2)(‘) of the 1999 Constitution, said granting the application was in the best interest of justice.

The judge granted the order and adjourned the case till January 24, 2017, for the respondents to appear in court to show cause why the funds should not be permanently forfeited.

By News Agency of Nigeria



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