A Lagos Division of the Federal High Court on Tuesday ordered the interim forfeiture of 56 houses valued at $22 million ($21,982,224 or N3.3 billion) allegedly bought between 2011 and 2013 by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Justice Abdulaziz Anka made the order following an application filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes, EFCC.
Justice Anka authorised the EFCC to appoint a firm to manage the properties and gave the respondents 14 days to show cause why the properties should not be permanently forfeited to the federal government.
The order came two weeks after the anti-graft agency said it had traced N47 billion and $487.5 million to the former minister.
On Tuesday, the judge directed the EFCC to publish the order for interim forfeiture in any national newspaper and adjourned till September 8.
The application, brought pursuant to Sections 17 of the Advanced Fee Fraud and other Fraud related offences Act 2006 and Section 44(2)(k) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) sought and obtained a temporary transfer of the property to the federal government.
Listed as respondents in the suit include Mrs. Alison-Madueke, Donald Amamgbo and three firms, Chapel Properties Limited, Blue Nile Estate Limited, Azinga Meadows Limited and Vistapoint Property Development Limited.
According to Anselm Ozioko, the EFCC lawyer, Mrs. Alison-Madueke paid $16,441,906 (N2.6billion) cash in several tranches and another $5,540318 (N840,000,000) cash for the properties using four “front firms” which held the titles in trust for her.
He listed the firms as Chapel Properties, Blue Nile Estate, Azinga Meadows and Vistapoint Property Development.
Mr. Ozioko said the Commission had discovered 14 other firms incorporated for the former minister for the purpose of holding the titles to those properties, adding that the properties were purchased from proceeds of suspected unlawful activities when she was in government.
The properties, Mr. Ozioko said, included 29 terraced houses comprising eight four-bedroom penthouse apartments, six three-bedroom apartments, two three-bedroom maisonettes, two twin bedroom apartments and one four-bedroom apartment.
The houses, located at No. 7, Thurnbull Street and 5, Raymond Street, Yaba, Lagos, were allegedly bought by Mrs. Alison-Madueke for the US dollar equivalent of N937,000,000 through Chapel Properties Ltd.
Others are 16 four-bedroom terraced houses in Heritage Court Estate, Plot 2C, Omerelu Street, Diobu, Government Residential Area (GRA) Phase 1 extension, Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, purchased for N928,000,000 through Blue Nile Estate Ltd.
She allegedly purchased 13 three-bedroom terraced houses with one-room maid’s quarters ensuite for N650,000,000 through Azinga Meadows Ltd.
The Commission also stated that Mrs. Alison-Madueke paid N805 million through Vistapoint Property Development Ltd, for six flats of three bedrooms and one boys’ quarters each, a lawn tennis court, gym and ‘matured garden’.
According to an affidavit in support of the application by an EFCC investigative officer, Sombori Mayana, the Commission got wind of the properties in 2016 following its execution of a search warrant on the office and premises of Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s acquaintance, Mr. Amamgbo.
According to Mr. Mayana: “…among the documents recovered from the office of Mr Donald Chidi Amamgbo was an undated report titled ‘HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL ATTORNEY EOTK PRODUCT – AUGUST REPORT’
“The report contained a list of 18 companies and several properties located in The United Kingdom, Nigeria and The United States of America.
“During the course of his interview, Mr Donald Amamgbo told us that he registered the 18 companies to assist Mrs Diezani Alison Madueke in holding titles of the properties.”
Mr. Mayana averred that a principal manager and head, business development of FBN Mortgages Ltd, Bolanle Onotu, confirmed that the properties were sold by her organisation to the former minister’s alleged four proxy firms for N937 million, N928 million, and N650 million and received payment through First Bank account numbers 2004483850 and 2008133531 between September 23, 2011, and June 16, 2015.
“First Bank of Nigeria Plc…stated that the source of the money was from Mrs Diezani Alison Madueke and that the bank picked up United States dollars from her house at 10, Frederick Chiluba Close off Jose Marti Street, Asokoro, Abuja,” Mr. Mayana added.
He said a total of $16,041,906 was picked up by the bank at Mrs. Alison’s house between September 29, 2011, and April 4, 2013, and converted to Naira.
According to Mr. Mayana, another firm, Adebern Parks Nigeria Ltd received N802.5 million in its Zenith Bank account from an Ecobank account for the purchase of some of the properties.
“One Mr. Adeyemi Edun received the sum of N840,000,000 from Skye Bank Plc which on his instruction transferred the sum of N805,000,000 to his Eco Bank account from where he paid Adebern Parks for the property,” he added.