The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Monday hailed the appearance of a former Nigerian Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, at a London court over bribery charges filed against her by the United Kingdom (UK) government.
Mrs Alison-Madueke, who was Nigeria’s petroleum minister between 2010 and 2015, was charged with bribery offences at the London court in August, following a National Crime Agency investigation.
She allegedly received bribes as Nigeria’s petroleum minister in the form of cash, luxury goods, flights on private jets and the use of high-end properties in Britain in return for awarding oil contracts.
EFCC, which also has pending money laundering charges against the former Nigerian minister at the Federal High Court in Abuja, said Monday’s development in London showed that crime would not go unpunished.
“Although the charges preferred against her at the London court, are diametrically different from the 13-count charges bordering on money laundering the EFCC has raised against her, it is instructive to note that criminality is criminality, irrespective of jurisdictional differences. No crime can go unpunished,” Dele Oyewale, EFCC’s Acting Head of Media and Publicity, said in a statement on Monday.
EFCC has hit a brick wall in its efforts to have Mrs Alison-Madueke extradited from the UK since she relocated there in 2015.
The commission had on different occasions moved the court presided by different judges to issue an arrest warrant or criminal summons against Mrs Alison-Madueke over 13 charges of money laundering against her.
After years of investigating the former minister, which in a way stifled her trial in Nigeria, the UK authorities charged her with bribery offences in August.
She made her first court appearance at the Westminister’s Court in London, where she only gave her name, date of birth and address.
Although she was not asked to formally enter a plea at Monday’s hearing, her lawyer, Mark Bowen, told the court she would be pleading not guilty.
According to Reuters, District Judge Michael Snow granted her bail in terms and conditions including a curfew that ordered her to stay indoors between 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
The judge also ordered her to always wear an electronic tag and imposed a 70,000-pound surety to be paid before she could leave the court building on Monday.
She is now scheduled to have her next court appearance at Southwark Crown Court, which deals with serious criminal cases, on 30 October.
While EFCC hailed the trial of the former minister in London, it said its pending charges against her in Nigeria were completely different.
“The money laundering charges for which Madueke is answerable to the EFCC, cover jurisdictions in Dubai, United Kingdom, United States of America and Nigeria,” EFCC said in its statement.
The commission also mentioned its efforts to have her extradited to Nigeria, expressing hope that she would still face trial in the Nigerian courts.
“To bring the former Minister to trial in Nigeria, an arrest warrant has been obtained and extradition proceedings have been initiated. The Commission is on course on her trial. She will soon have her day in our courts,” the statement stated.
The former minister was arrested in London in 2015, shortly after stepping down as minister.
EFCC alleged that she fled after she got wind of the plan to charge her with various offences of corruption allegedly perpetrated by her and her allies while she presided over the Nigerian petroleum sector under then President Jonathan’s administration.
But, in a N100 billion libel suit she filed against EFCC and Nigeria’s Attorney-General of the Federation earlier this year, Mrs Alison-Madueke denied fleeing Nigeria over any corruption case.
She said she was rather hurriedly flown to the UK on 22 May 2015, about a week before her tenure would end, to attend to her failing health.
She said in the suit that she had been wrongly associated with money laundering, stealing public funds from Nigeria “and of being a corrupt, dishonest, dishonourable, unscrupulous, unprincipled, debased, degenerate and decadent public officer”.
Efforts to prosecute Diezani in Nigeria
EFCC has been making futile efforts to prosecute Diezani in Nigeria since at least 2018.
On December 4, 2018, a judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Valentine Ashi (now deceased), granting a request by the EFCC, ordered the commission, the Nigerian Police Force, the States Security Service (SSS), and all other security agencies to arrest her within 72 hours.
The matter was later moved to the Federal High Court in Abuja where the EFCC filed 13 counts of money laundering against Mrs Alison-Madueke in anticipation of her extradition to Nigeria.
On 24 July 2020, Ijeoma Ojukwu, a judge of the Federal High Court, Abuja, handling the matter, issued a summons for the former minister to appear to answer to the charges preferred against her.
Ms Alison-Madueke ignored the summons which, anyway, could not be confirmed was served on her.
EFCC subsequently requested the judge to issue a warrant of arrest against the former minister.
But the judge turned down the request, insisting that the summons she issued was sufficient to process her extradition to Nigeria to face her trial, adding that she would not issue another order in vain.
However, on 24 January, Bolaji Olajuwon of the Federal High Court in Abuja, who took over the case from Mrs Ojukwu, issued a fresh warrant of arrest against the former minister following an oral application by EFCC’s lawyer, Farouk Abdullah.
Mr Abdullah told the court that all efforts by the agency to get the ex-minister extradited proved abortive while the matter was being handled by the former judge.
He said the summons issued by Mrs Ojukwu had not achieved the intended goal of extraditing the defendant.
Mr Olajuwon then granted the application and adjourned the matter indefinitely pending when Ms Alison-Madueke would be arrested and produced in court.
EFCC, on 11 November 2018, filed 13 counts of money laundering against Mrs Alison-Madueke at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Diezani was accused of, among other charges, unlawfully taking into her possession, the sums of sums of $39.7 million and N3.32 billion said to be proceeds of unlawful activities.
She was said to have purchased choice landed assets with the money using different fronts as the owners.
In September 2013, she allegedly used the name of Rusimpex Limited to acquire a property named Block B3 comprising six penthouses and 18 flats at Zone N Federal Government Layout, also known as Bella Vista Estate, Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos, with the sum of $37.5m.
On 4 June 2012, she was said to have used the name of Azinga Meados Limited to buy 13 three-bedroom terrace houses with one-room maids’ quarters at Mabushi Gardens Estate, Abuja, with the sum of N650 million.
In May 2012, she allegedly used the name of Chapel Properties to buy eight four-bedroom terrace houses, two three-bedroom penthouses, six three-bedroom apartments, two three-bedroom Maisonette, two two-bedroom apartments, one four-bedroom apartment at No. 4/6 Thorbun Avenue, and No 5 Raymond Street, Yaba, Lagos, with N937million.
She was also said to have in May 2012, purchased in the name of Blue Nile Estate Limited, 16 four-bedroom terrace houses, at Plot 2C, Omerelu Street Diabu GRA, Port Harcourt Rivers State, with N928m.
In January 2011, EFCC alleged that she bought in the name of Vista Point Company Limited, six flats of three-bedrooms with one boys’ quarters each, a lawn tennis court, Gym, garden and appurtenances, at 135 Awolowo Road/Bourdillon Road, Ikoyi, Lagos State, with N805m.
The ex-minster was also said to have in December 2011, bought in the name of Sequoyah Properties Limited a property at 12, Forces Avenue, Old GRA, Port Harcourt measuring 4,890 square meters with $2.2m.
Her alleged offences which she was said to have committed between November 20, 2011 and September 2013 were said to be contrary to section 15(2), (d) of the Money Laundering Act, 2011 as amended in 2012 and punishable under section 15(3) of the same Act.
The EFCC blamed the United Kingdom government for shielding her from trial.
A court document revealed that the suspended chair of EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, who was appointed to head the team investigating Ms Alison-Madueke and her allies, once travelled to the UK to interrogate the former minister but could not gain access to her.
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