The Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday ordered the temporary forfeiture of 58 houses linked to a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.
The houses, located in Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt, were said to have been acquired by the ex-minister between 2011 and 2013 using front companies.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission claimed that Diezani paid $21,982,224 for the properties, adding that it believed that the funds were proceeds of crime.
The anti-graft agency listed the properties to include 29 terraced houses comprising eight four-bedroomed penthouse apartments, six three-bedroomed apartments, two three-bedroomed maisonettes, two twin-bedroomed apartments and one four-bedroomed apartment.
The houses, located at No. 7, Thurnbull Street and 5, Raymond Street, Yaba, were allegedly bought by Diezani for the United States dollar equivalent of N937m through Chapel Properties Ltd.
Other seized houses are 16 four-bedroomed terraced houses in Heritage Court Estate, Plot 2C, Omerelu Street, Diobu, Government Residential Area (GRA) Phase 1 Extension, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, purchased for N928m through Blue Nile Estate Ltd.
The properties also include 13 three-bedroomed terraced houses with one-room maid’s quarters ensuite for N650m through Azinga Meadows Ltd.
In an ex parte application brought before Justice Abdulaziz Anka on Tuesday by its counsel, Mr. Anselem Ozioko, the EFCC urged the judge to order the temporary forfeiture of the properties to the Federal Government.
The judge granted the temporary forfeiture order and directed that a firm should be appointed to manage the properties.
He also ordered the EFCC to publish the interim forfeiture order in a national newspaper and adjourned till September 8, 2017 for any party interested in the properties to appear before the court to state why the temporary forfeiture order should not be made permanent.
Listed as first to sixth respondents in the suit are Diezani, Donald Amamgbo, and four firms – Chapel Properties Limited; Blue Nile Estate Limited; Azinga Meadows Limited; and Vistapoint Property Development Limited.
Ozioko told the court that Diezani used the companies as fronts for the acquisition of the properties, adding that the anti-graft agency had discovered 14 other firms incorporated for the ex-minister for the purpose of holding the titles to those properties.
Diezani, he added, purchased the properties from the proceeds of suspected unlawful activity during her tenure as minister.
In an affidavit filed in support of the ex parte application, an EFCC investigator, Mr. Sombori Mayana, said the EFCC got winds of the properties in 2016 following the execution of a search warrant on the office and premises of Amamgbo, said to be Diezani’s acquaintance.
The investigator averred, “Among the documents recovered from the office of Mr. Donald Chidi Amamgbo was an undated report that contained a list of 18 companies and several properties located in the United Kingdom, Nigeria and the United States of America.
“During the course of his interview, Mr. Donald Amamgbo told us that he registered the 18 companies to assist Mrs. Diezani Alison Madueke in holding titles of the properties.”
Mayana averred that a principal manager and Head, Business Development of FBN Mortgages Ltd., Mrs. Bolanle Onotu, confirmed that the properties were sold by her organisation to Diezani’s alleged four proxy firms for N937m, N928m and N650m 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 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 added.
He said a total of $16,041,906 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 the sum of N840,000,000 from Skye Bank Plc which on his instructions transferred the sum of N805,000,000 to his Eco Bank account from where he paid Adebern Parks for the property.”