(PHOTO) Trial In London In June. Another $115M Fraud By Former Nigeria Oil Minister. A prosecution witness, Timothy Olaobaju, has narrated before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos how former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, stashed the sum of $115,010,000 in Fidelity bank and subsequently instructed that the money be changed into naira, which was distributed among some individuals.
Olaobaju a staff of the bank in his evidence before the Justice Rilwan Aikawa – led court, on Monday named those who benefitted from the funds to include, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Dele Belgore and a former Minister of National Planning, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman, who both received N450m. Unfortunately, it is the actions of a few that create all the bad press for Nigeria wherein any mention of Nigeria brings up images of Medicare fraud, Nigerian prince, advance fee fraud, credit card fraud, 419, Yahoo Yahoo, pirates, . The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, is currently prosecuting Belgore and Sulaiman on a five count charge bordering on money laundering to the tune of N450m. Also charged along with the accused persons is the former Petroleum Minister who is said to “still be at large.”
The banker while been led in evidence by counsel to the anti-graft agency, Rotimi Oyedepo, said,
“Sometime in April 2014, our MD, Mr Nnamdi Okonkwo, gave a directive that certain companies and individuals would pay into an account with our bank some amounts of money. The purpose of the payment was not disclosed.Over the period, thereafter, some amounts were paid into the account. The funds were deposited in dollar. The total sum was $115,010,000. On the 27th of March, 2015, there was an instruction from the former Petroleum Resources Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, through our MD, that the fund in the account should be converted to naira and paid to certain individuals of which the list of beneficiaries was sent to our MD and the amount to be paid to them in naira. The funds were paid according to Alison-Madueke’s instructions. On the list sent to our branch, the names of the defendants (Belgore and Sulaiman) were on that list because the money was paid in about 36 states of the federation. The defendants are not customers of our bank. The instruction was that the sum of N450m should be paid to Mr Dele Belgore (SAN) and Prof. Abubakar Suleiman. They both received the money and they filled the Receipt of Payment as evidence of receipt of the money and acknowledgement of same.”
The banker disclosed that both Belgore and Sulaiman signed separate receipts of Payment for the same N450m on March 26, 2015 and the court admitted both receipts of payment in evidence and marked them as Exhibits 1 and 1A.
Following his testimony, Belgore’s lawyer, Ebun Shofunde, SAN, prayed the court for an adjournment. Explaining the reason for the adjournment, Shofunde said most of what the witness said were not in the proof of evidence with the defence team, this Sulaiman’s lawyer, Olatunji Ayanlaja, SAN, acknowledged. Counsel to the anti-graft agency, however, did not object to prayer for adjournment. Against this backdrop, Justice Aikawa adjourned the matter till Tuesday for further proceedings
Former Nigerian Minister of Petroleum Resources Diezani Allison Maduekwe will be tried for money laundering in the United Kingdom in June. For many observers, Maduekwe is the face of high-level corruption in Nigeria. A former minister of transport, she served as petroleum minister in the government of Goodluck Jonathan. During her days of flying high, she collected “firsts,” she was the first female minister of transport, the first female minister of petroleum, and the first female secretary general of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). She was also the first female appointed to the board of the Shell Petroleum Development Corporation.
Her extravagant lifestyle – ranging from multiple hotel suites in the same city on the same trip to private planes to private palaces costing millions (if not billions) of naira was notorious. The rumor mill had her “close” to then-President Goodluck Jonathan, rivaling his wife, Patience (also popularly excoriated for her conspicuous consumption).
Seemingly arrogant, greedy, and vain, Diezani’s public persona in a poor country evokes disdain. However her culpability in stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from the Nigerian state remains to be proven. Nigerian agencies, notably the Economic and Financial crimes Commission (EFC), has been cooperating with the UK authorities. According to one spokesman, “We have taken more evidence to the UK… We have a huge pile of documents.”
Diezani will be tried with her two brothers. Ostensibly she went to the UK where her mother lives following Jonathan’s defeat in the 2015 presidential elections for treatment for breast cancer. She denies any charges of wrongdoing and that she “fled” Nigeria.
Central to Muhammadu Buhari’s victory in the 2015 presidential elections over Goodluck Jonathan was public revulsion over the scale of official corruption. In response to public outcry, Buhari campaigned on an anti-corruption platform. Since his election he has made the fight against corruption one of the two centerpieces of his administration.