Monday, 26 September 2016

EFCC Probes Diezani Over N4bn Hotel Deal As Her Business Associates Fail To Refund $1.85billion Traced To Them

Detectives have uncovered another multi-billion naira transaction believed to have been carried out by former Petroleum Resources Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is probing a N4billion hotel deal between Mrs. Alison-Madueke and a former military administrator, whose identity is yet to be released “so as to protect the investigation”.

The hotel may be placed under Interim Forfeiture as soon as the preliminary investigation is concluded, The Nation learnt. But detectives of the anti-graft agency have secured the relevant papers on the hotel valued at N4billion

Also, it was gathered at the weekend that some business associates of Mrs Alison-Madueke were yet to refund to the EFCC about $1.85billion traced to them. They would rather follow through the case than make a refund, a source said.

According to the anti-graft agency, the hotel was one of the five being investigated in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.

The Nation reported on September 13 that a special team of operatives was drafted to Port Harcourt to locate five houses suspected to be the ex-minister’s. It was learnt that the interim report of the team indicated “a strongly suspected hotel purchase deal” between the ex-minister and the former military administrator.

An EFCC source said: “We have been able to link the N4 billion hotel in Port Harcourt to the ex-minister. We are probing alleged sales deal between her and a former military administrator. We have been able to ascertain the value of the hotel. But we are gradually tracking how the deal was carried out including verification of bank details and transactions by all those involved.

Some of these deals we are unearthing were carried out in layers in order to shield them away from anti-corruption agencies. But we are cracking them all. For strategic reasons, we will not reveal the identities of the ex-MILAD and others connected with the deal at this stage of investigation. But very soon, the transactions will be made known to the public. Do not forget, we have four other properties under surveillance.”

About two weeks ago, another asset of the ex-minister in Abuja, allegedly worth over N500million, was confiscated pending her trial. The anti-graft agency had earlier seized a mansion worth N3.58billion from the ex-minister, bringing the haul in Abuja to about N4.08billion

With the latest tracking of the hotel in question in Port Harcourt, the properties allegedly linked to the ex-minister are worth about N8.08billion.

As at press time, none of the business associates of Mrs Diezani, who are under investigation, has refunded anything from the $1.8billion traced to them.

A source in the EFCC said: “Apart from subsidy funds which some of them paid back, they are yet to refund the $1.85billion traced to them. The battle is in the court; we will do our best to recover these slush funds. I think they are prepared for the legal battle.

The EFCC has, however, secured a Mareva Injunction from Justice O.O. Oguntoyinbo to freeze some foreign accounts and seize some assets linked with Mrs Alison-Madueke’s associates in the United Kingdom.

“Some of the off-shore financial institutions, where accounts have been frozen include BNP Paribas (Switzerland), LGT Bank (Switzerland), Standard Chartered Bank (London),Barclays Bank (London), Standard Energy (Voduz, Switzerland), HSBC (London), Corner Bank (Lugano, Switzerland) and Deutsche Bank (Geneva).

Section 34 (1) of the EFCC Act 2004 empowers the commission to freeze any account suspected of being used for financial crimes.

“The section stipulates that ‘the chairman of the commission or any officer authorised by him may, if satisfied that the money in the account of a person is made through the commission of an offence under this Act or any enactment specified under Section 6(2) (a)-(f) of this Act, apply to the court ex parte for power to issue or instruct a bank examiner or such other appropriate authority to freeze the account.”

The National Crime Agency (NCA) in the UK arrested and quizzed Diezani and four others on October 2, 2015 for alleged bribery and corruption and money laundering.

Also, the EFCC has quizzed five more suspects since the interrogation of Mrs Alison-Madueke by the NCA.

The NCA last year obtained permission from a Westminster Magistrate’s Court to seize 27,000 pounds from Mrs Alison-Madueke and two other women.

Although NCA detectives have visited the country this year in line with the ongoing probe of the former minister, it was unclear when she will be formally arraigned in court in the UK.

While the UK investigation was in progress, the EFCC uncovered another $115million poll bribery scam in which the ex-minister was implicated.

But the ex-minister recently described allegations against her as “cold-hearted” and inhuman at a time she is ill. 

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