A Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered the permanent forfeiture of some jewellery valued at $40 million (about N14.4 billion) recovered from the home of former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Justice Nicholas Oweibo made the order in favour of the Federal Government while delivering judgment in a motion filed against the former Minister by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The jewellery, which are categorised into 33 sets, include: “419 expensive bangles, 315 expensive rings, 304 expensive earrings, 267 expensive necklaces, 189 expensive wristwatches and 174 expensive necklaces and earrings”.
Other are: “78 expensive bracelets, 77 expensive brooches and 74 expensive pendants.”
In his ruling, the judge held that Mrs Allison-Madueke, rather than show why the property should not be finally forfeited, only filed a motion to set aside and discharge the July 5, 2019 interim order of forfeiture.
“The deponent in the affidavit of the motion is not the owner of the property sought to be forfeited and the deponent did not state in the affidavit where he got the information from.
“On the whole and in the view of the respondent’s failure to show cause why the property should not be finally forfeited, the order of final forfeiture is hereby granted. The property is hereby finally forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.”
Making his submission during hearing, counsel to EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, told the judge that the court was empowered to make such forfeiture order under Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offence Act 2006, because “the respondent’s known and provable lawful income is far less than the property sought to be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria”.
Oyedepo supported his application with, among others, an affidavit deposed to by an EFCC investigator, Rufai Zaki.
Zaki recalled that Alison-Madueke was appointed Minister of Petroleum Resources on April 12, 2010.
He said EFCC’s findings revealed that the former minister started acquiring the jewellery in 2012 from Bukola Oyewumi of Trinket Box Bespoke Jewellery at Ikeja City Mall in Alausa, Ikeja, the Lagos State capital.
The investigator said the commission was in possession of details of the United Bank for Africa (UBA) account through which Alison-Madueke received her salary as a Minister.
“The respondent did not utilise her salary or any part of her legitimate income to acquire the assets sought to be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria,” Zaki said.
The EFCC operative averred that a “damning intelligence report” received by the commission led to a search of Alison-Madueke’s house at 10 Fredrick Chiluba Close, Asokoro, Abuja, the nation’s capital.
Zaki said the EFCC invited Oyewumi and she made a statement that she started selling jewellery to Diezani in 2012.
According to him, Oyewumi also made available to the EFCC the invoices issued on the sale of the jewellery in which ‘Aunty D’ was written as the buyer.
He said the EFCC also discovered that apart from Oyewumi, the former minister also bought jewellery from Minal Ratanani of Bella Vista Apartment, Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Zaki also said Ratanani admitted during questioning that Alison-Madueke bought jewellery worth $865,300.00 from her over a period and that the former minister paid cash. – The Nation