JUSTICE Chuka Obiozor of the Federal High Court, Lagos, on Wednesday, ordered the temporary forfeiture to the Federal Government the sums of $2,740,197.96 and N84,537,840.70 allegedly belonging to the former Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison Madueke.
He also ordered the temporary forfeiture of a building known as Building 3, Block B, Bella Vista, located on Plot 1, Zone N, Federal Government layout, Banana Island Foreshore Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos, being linked to the former Petroleum Minister to the Federal Government.
Justice Obiozor made the temporary order while granting an ex parte application filed and argued before the court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against Alison-Madueke, a lawyer and a company.
The lawyer in question is Afamefuna Nwokedi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), while the company in the suit is Rusimpex Limited, which the EFCC alleged to have been conduit pipe which Diezani allegedly used in siphoning the money used to buy the seized property.
The EFCC further stated that in carrying out the alleged fraud, Mr Nwokedi incorporated a company known as Rusimpex Limited on September 11, 2013, with its corporate office at 3-5, Oniru Road, Ikoyi, the same corporate address of Stillwater Law Firm.
The EFCC also stated that the two directors of the company are Adetula Ayokunle, a lawyer in Nwokedi’s law firm, who was allocated 9,900 shares and one Vladmir Jourauleu, a Russian.
Investigations revealed that at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), it was recorded that both Adetula Ayokunle and Vladimir Jourauleu were the owners and shareholders of Rusimpex Limited, while the Power of Attorney and Board Resolution of the company revealed that Mr Nwokedi ran the affairs of the company and by extension, the property in question.
The EFCC further stated that the third respondent, Rusimpex Limited paid a total sum of $37.5 million to YF Construction Development and Real Estate Limited as cost of the property.
The EFCC counsel further stated that the said investigation by the EFCC revealed that Diezani made the $37.5m payment for the purchase of the property in cash, adding that the money was moved straight from her house in Abuja and paid into the seller’s account in Abuja.
“Nothing could be more suspicious than someone keeping such huge amounts in her apartment.
“We are convinced beyond reasonable doubt because as of the time this happened, Mrs Alison-Madueke was still in public service as the Minister of Petroleum Resources,” the EFCC told Justice Obiozor.
When Nwokedi was questioned by the EFCC, he explained that he had approached Diezani for opportunities in the oil and gas industry, but the ex-minister told him that being a lawyer, she did not have any such opportunity and asked him whether he could in the alternative manage landed properties, an offer he accepted.
When Ayokunle was questioned by the EFCC, he explained that he only appended his signature on the CAC documents at his boss’s instruction, while Jourauleu denied knowledge of the company.
Justice Obiozor made an order temporarily seizing the property and the funds.
He directed that the order should be published in a national newspaper.
The matter has been adjourned till August 7 for further hearing.
In a related development, the auction of Apartment 79, a N16 billion ($50 million) penthouse in One57, one of New York’s most expensive residential buildings, owned by former Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Allison-Madueke’s associate, Kola Aluko, has reportedly been suspended.
The sale was halted on Wednesday, after a debt collecting firm, Campion Maverick Inc. filed a suit at a federal court in Florida, United States, on July 3, seeking to force the owner of the apartment, Earnshaw Associates Limited and One57 79 Inc. into bankruptcy.
According to Bloomberg reports, the collecting firm said it wanted to recover an unpaid debt of (N26 billion) $83.1 million for gasoline and jet fuel from the owners.
The apartment had been penciled in for sale in what was described as New York’s biggest auction, after a Luxembourg creditor, Banque Havilland, sought to recoup a $35.3 million mortgage debt.
Last Friday, the United States Department of Justice listed Mr Aluko, his business partner, Jide Omokore and Diezani Alison-Madueke as persons of interest in a civil complaint for the forfeiture of $144 million slush fund filed at a District Court in Houston, Texas.
The complaint revealed how the three individuals laundered millions of dollars on behalf of Mrs Alison-Madueke, which was used in buying properties in the United States and the United Kingdom for her family in return for oil contracts given to Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Nigeria Limited (AEDC) and the Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited (AEBD), two companies owned by Mr Omokore.
Some of the properties purchased from the laundered fund included three private jets, the Galatical Star, an $80 million “super yacht” and the crisis ridden New York apartment.
The United States government would have collected what was left of the auction after Banque Havilland had recovered its debt, if its civil complaint sailed through.
However, the auction had been cancelled for now, says Mark McKew, the lawyer appointed to oversee the sales of the 6,240 square-foot penthouse.
Court documents showed that the debt was owed to an Ivory Coast petroleum supplier.
Mr Aluko had signed a debt-settlement agreement in 2012 with the company.
In 2015, the debt was guaranteed by Earnshaw Associate Limited reportedly set up by Aluko.
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