A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, on Friday, ordered the temporary forfeiture of the sum of $153,310,000, which a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, allegedly siphoned from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and stashed in three banks in the country, namely Sterling Bank Plc, First Bank Plc and Access Bank Plc.
Trial judge in the matter is Justice Muslim Hassan.
Out of the allegedly stolen $153.3m, a sum of N23,446, 300,000 was kept in Sterling Bank Plc, N9,080,000,000 in First Bank Plc and $5m in Access Bank Plc.
After ordering the temporary forfeiture of the money to the Federal Government, Justice Hassan gave Sterling Bank and any other interested party 14 days to appear before him to prove the legitimacy of the money, failing which the funds would be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
The judge made the order following an application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, which appeared before him with an ex-parte application seeking the temporary forfeiture of the funds.
In a nine-paragraphs affidavit in support of the ex-parte application, an EFCC investigator, Moses Awolusi, had averred that the anti-graft agency discovered through its investigations how sometime in December 2014, Diezani invited a former Managing Director of a bank to her office where they allegedly hatched the plan of how $153,310,000 would be moved from NNPC to be saved for Diezani.
According to Awolusi, Diezani allegedly instructed the bank MD to ensure that the money was “neither credited into any known account nor captured in any transaction platforms” of the bank.
Awolusi further averred that the said bank MD accepted and implemented the instruction leading to the movement of $153,310,000 from NNPC to the bank.
He also averred that the said two former Group Executive Directors of Finance and Account of NNPC, B.O.N. Otti and Stanley Lawson, allegedly helped Diezani to move the cash from NNPC, Abuja to the headquarters of the bank in Lagos.
Awolusi averred that in an alleged desperate bid to conceal the source of the money, the MD upon receiving it, instructed the Country Head of the bank to take $113,310,000 cash out of the money to the Executive Director, Commercial and Institutional Bank, Sterling Bank Plc, Lanre Adesanya, to keep.
He claimed that the remaining $40m was taken in cash to the Executive Director, Public Sector Accountant, First Bank, Dauda Lawal, to keep.
The investigator said out of the $113,310,000 handed over to Adesanya, a sum of $108,310,000 was invested in an off balance sheet investment using Sterling Asset Management Trustees Limited.
He alleged that the said $108,310,000 was subsequently changed to N23,446, 300,000 and saved in Sterling Bank. Awolusi averred that the EFCC had recovered the N23.4bn in draft and had registered it as an exhibit marked, EFCC 01.
The investigator said the EFCC had also recovered another $5m out of the money kept with the MD of Access Bank Plc, Mr. Herbert Wigwe.
He said the $5m was recovered in draft and had been registered as an exhibit marked, EFCC 02.
According to him, First Bank’s ED, Lawal, had converted the $40m kept with him to N9,080,000,000. Awolusi, added that the EFCC had recovered that also in draft and registered it as Exhibit EFCC 03.
Moving the ex parte application, yesterday, EFCC counsel, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, urged Justice Hassan to order the temporary forfeiture of the funds to the Federal Government and to order Sterling Bank and Lawal, who were joined as defendants in the application, as well as any other interested parties, to appear in court within two weeks to show cause why the funds should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
Oyedepo, who said the application was brought pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act No. 14, 2006 and Section 44(2)(‘) of the 1999 Constitution, said granting the application was in the best interest of justice.
After hearing him, Justice Hassan granted the order and adjourned till January 24, 2016 for the respondents to appear in court to show cause why the funds should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.