*Also directs forfeiture of $2.7m, N84.5m rent
A Federal High Court in Ikoyi on Monday ordered the final forfeiture to the Federal Government, a $37.5million high rise building on Banana Island, Lagos, belonging to the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Justice Chuka Obiozor also ordered that $2.7m and N84.5m realised as rents on the property be equally forfeited to the federal government.
The orders were made yesterday following a motion on notice argued before him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The anti-graft agency had, on July 19, 2017, obtained a court order to temporarily seize the property located at Building 3, Block B, Bella Vista Plot 1, Zone N, Federal Government Layout, Banana Island, Foreshore Estate, which is said to have 24 apartments, 18 flats and six penthouses.
The court had directed that the temporary forfeiture order be published in a newspaper and then adjourned till Monday for anyone interested in the property; and funds to appear to convince the court why they should not be permanently forfeited to the federal government.
At the resumed hearing of the matter on Monday, the EFCC lawyer, Mr. Anselem Ozioko, told Justice Obiozor that the publication order had been complied with. He however, stated that no one has contested the forfeiture order.
“In summary, it appears as if they are not willing to contest this application,” Ozioko said, urging Justice Obiozor to go ahead and order the permanent forfeiture of the property and the funds.
Justice Obiozor, thereafter granted the orders and held that “in the face of the publication, which I find in Exhibit B of the affidavit of compliance before me, and there being no responses from any interested party, I have no other option but to grant the orders as prayed.”
The EFCC had earlier told the judge that the Banana Island mansion was reasonably suspected to have been acquired with proceeds of unlawful activities by the defendant.
The anti-graft agency said its investigations revealed that Diezani purchased the property sometime in 2013 at the
price of $37.5million, which she paid in cash.
According to the EFCC, the $37.5m was moved straight from Diezani’s house in Abuja and paid into the seller’s First Bank account in Abuja.
“Nothing could be more suspicious than someone keeping such huge amounts in her apartment. Why was she doing that, to avoid attention?
“We are convinced beyond reasonable doubt because as of the time this happened, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke was still in public service as the Minister of Petroleum Resources,” the EFCC lawyer, Ozioko, had told Justice Obiozor.”
In a 41-paragraph affidavit attached to the application, an investigative officer with the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, explained that one Nwokedi, in connivance with Diezani, purposely incorporated the company, Rusimpex Limited, on September 11, 2013 to facilitate the alleged fraud scheme.
According to Bawa, 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 she did not have any such opportunity for him and asked him whether he could in the alternative manage landed properties, an offer which Nwokedi accepted.
Bawa said Nwokedi later registered Rusimpex Limited at the Corporate Affairs Commission, wherein a lawyer in his law firm, Adetula Ayokunle, and a Russian, Vladmir Jourauleu, were listed as the directors of the company.
The investigator also stated that when Ayokunle was questioned by the EFCC, he explained that he only appended his signature on the CAC documents at his boss’ instruction, while Jourauleu denied knowledge of the company.
The investigator explained, “Sometime in 2013, the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, invited Nwokedi, to her house in Abuja for a meeting where she informed him to incorporate a company and use.