There were indications, yesterday, that a former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke, arrested and released in the United Kingdom, on Friday, on money laundering allegations, may be charged to court, this week. And feelers showed that she will not be the only person in the dock. It was learnt that besides the four other persons arrested with the former minister, more suspects may also be arraigned.
Meanwhile, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) detectives, who raided the Abuja home of Allison-Madueke, just at about the time of her arrest in the UK, on Friday, reportedly recovered cash running into millions of Naira.
The trial is expected to be conducted in London and is likely to draw thousands of Nigerians resident in the United Kingdom (UK) but no date was specified, last night, when Sunday Vanguard made contacts with the National Crime Agency (NCA), which arrested and released Diezani and the four others on Friday.
An official of the NCA gave indication of the trial in a telephone chat but pointed out that the identities of all the suspects would only be unveiled at the point of charging them to court. The official explained that the law establishing the NCA does not allow it to name those being investigated before charging them to court. The official said: “Indeed we cannot name the five persons who were arrested and granted police conditional bail until we are ready to charge them to court. “The law does not permit us to do so and we will release appropriate information to the media as the case progresses”.
But it was learnt from sources close to the British government that the NCA might have concluded arrangements to arraign Diezani and other suspects believed to be mostly Nigerian oil business men, suspected to have aided and abetted money laundering while the former minister was in office. One of the sources said the British Government started investigating Diezani as early as 2013 following sustained allegations of financial wrongdoings at home and abroad, leveled against her and some officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
In the meantime, a team of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) operatives, which raided the Abuja home of the former minister in Asokoro, Abuja, was said to have recovered cash running into millions of Naira from the place.
But a source close to the operation said only N1.2 million was recovered. The security agents, who stormed the home, on Frederick Chiluba Street, Asokoro, in six vehicles, reportedly gained access to the expansive mansion with the aid of some former security aides of the embattled former minister. The team allegedly gained access to the well fortified house using one of the windows.
Reports said Diezani had not been sighted near the palatial home since leaving office in May but had been staying in the United Kingdom, where she reportedly sought medical attention over an undisclosed ailment.
In updated information on its website, yesterday, the NCA disclosed that investigation of the suspects was initiated in 2013 by the Proceeds of Corruption Unit, which transferred the matter to it early this year. The agency said that the suspects were merely granted what it called “conditional police bail” pending further investigation to be conducted in the UK and overseas. It was learnt that the EFCC, which has a working pact with UK anti-corruption agencies, swopped on Diezani’s home and recovered vital documents, which it hopes to use to prosecute her when the trial begins in London.
According to the NCA’s website, the International Corruption Unit (ICU) investigates bribery of foreign public officials by individuals or companies from the UK and money laundering by suspected corrupt foreign officials and their associates. The ICU also traces and recovers the proceeds of international corruption, support foreign law enforcement agencies with international anti-corruption investigations; engages with government and business to reduce the UK’s exposure to the proceeds of corruption. It works to support increased compliance with the Bribery Act 2010 and draws on the specialist support available to it within the NCA, while also working closely with other UK law enforcement agencies and overseas partners.