Diezani Alison-Madueke is on the news again for money-related problems, as usual.
The United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency (NCA) has frozen a £10 million (over N4 billion) worth of London property allegedly bought for Alison-Madueke!
Two properties at Regents Park in London, along with one in Buckinghamshire, have now been frozen based on the request of Nigerian authorities. A London court gave the frozen order since September 2016, but details of the rulings have been kept secret until this period. The agency was however reportedly too late in preventing two properties worth said to be worth £8 million (over N3billion) from being sold.
The affidavit stated that businessmen Jide Omokore and Kola Aluko were involved in the purchase of two of the properties allegedly bought for Mrs. Alison-Madueke.
The UK order also revealed that three of the properties have been frozen under the Proceeds of Crime Act. Apart from Alison-Madueke, Omokore and Aluko, the order also named three other individuals as defendants in the case, all of whom are believed to have received contracts or oil asset from the NNPC during Diezani’s tenure as Nigeria’s petroleum minister. They include Aiteo’s Chief Executive Officer, Benedict Peters, a jeweler named Christopher Aire, and a lawyer named Donald Amamgbo. All received contracts from the NNPC. The order forbids the defendants from disposing of or dealing in the properties. One of the properties sold before authorities found out about them is a massive nine-bedroom house in London’s exclusive Hampstead Garden Suburb was sold in May 2015. Another property at 39 Chester Close was sold in July 2015, months before the NCA initially arrested Mrs Alison-Madueke. UK estate agent, Daniel Ford & Co, assisted in the purchases of three of the properties, and UK solicitors firms, Addie & Co and Gordon’s Partnership, were conveyancers of the deals. Meanwhile, the extent of the evidence against the former minister and the other defendants is still not certain.
The September 2016 forfeiture proceeding of the properties was held in private, meaning that the evidence that the NCA presented to support the seizure cannot be reached. This evidence will be critical as what is on ground this will not be enough to secure criminal prosecutions against those mentioned, analysts say.
Aaron Sayne, a financial investigator and senior governance officer at the National Resource Governance Institute said, “In the U.S. and U.K., simply buying luxury items for a government official like Ms. Alison-Madueke isn’t against the law. Investigators have to link the money involved to a crime that happened in Nigeria. And if the crime is bribery, they must also show that the items purchased rewarded her for helping someone win a government contract. That’s not easy to prove, especially well enough to stand up in court.”