A Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered the interim forfeiture of 56 houses worth $21,982,224 million (N3.320 billion).allegedly acquired by former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, between 2011 and 2013.
Justice Abdulaziz Anka made the order on Tuesday following an ex-parte application filed on August 16, 2017 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Anka authorised the EFCC to appoint a firm to manage the property and gave the respondents 14 days to show cause why they should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
He also directed the agency to publish the order in any national newspaper and adjourned the case till September 8, 2017.
The EFCC through 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 first to sixth respondents in the suit are Diezani, Donald Chidi Amamgbo and three firms, Chapel Properties Limited, Blue Nile Estate Limited, Azinga Meadows Limited and Vistapoint Property Development Limited.
EFCC counsel, Mr. Anselem Ozioko, told Justice Anka that Diezani paid $16.449million (N2.6billion) cash in several tranches and another $5.540million (N840million) cash for the property through 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.
Ozioko said the commission had discovered 14 other firms incorporated for the ex-minister for the purpose of holding the titles to the property.
Diezani, he added, bought the houses from the proceeds of suspected unlawful activities during her tenure as minister.
The agency described the property as including 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, were allegedly bought by Diezani 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, bought for N928million through Blue Nile Estate Ltd.
She also allegedly bought 13 three-bedroom terraced houses with one-room maid’s quarters ensuite for N650million through Azinga Meadows Ltd.
The commission also stated that Diezani paid N805million 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, Mr. Sombori Mayana, EFCC got wind of the housesin 2016 following its execution of a search warrant on the office and premises of Diezani’s acquaintance, Mr. Donald Chidi Amamgbo.
Mayana said: “…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 houses located in the United Kingdom, Nigeria and the United States of America.
“During the course of his interview, Amamgbo told us that he registered the 18 companies to assist Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke in holding titles of the property.”
Mayana averred that a principal manager and head, business development of FBN Mortgages Ltd, Mrs. Bolanle Onotu, confirmed that the mansions were sold by her organisation to Diezani’s alleged four proxy firms for N937million, N928million and N650million 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,” Mayana said.
He said a total of $16.041million was picked up by the bank at Diezani’s house between September 29, 2011 and April 4, 2013 and converted to Naira.
According to Mayana, another firm, Adebern Parks Nigeria Ltd received N802,500,000 in its Zenith Bank account from an Ecobank account for the purchase of some of the properties.
One Mr. Adeyemi Edun “received N840million from Skye Bank Plc which on his instruction transferred the sum of N805million to his Eco Bank account from where he paid Adebern Parks for the property,” he said.