A former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Allison Madueke, allegedly diverted $153,310,000 (about N46.6billion) from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has alleged.
The commission, in a bid to recover the money, applied to the Federal High Court for its temporary forfeiture.
Justice Muslim Hassan, before whom the application was brought, yesterday ordered the temporary forfeiture of the money.
EFCC said the money is stashed in three banks in Nigeria.
The banks have been directed to supply proof that the money was not stolen or risk losing it permanently to the Federal Government.
The three banks allegedly hiding the money are Access Bank Plc, First Bank Plc and Fidelity Bank Plc, EFCC said.
The former minister is said to have connived with the bank executives to hide the loot.
EFCC said the banks aided and abetted the massive fraud perpetrated by the minister.
According to the commission, Access Bank is holding $5million out of the total sum.
Sterling Bank has the largest chunk of it, as it is currently hiding N23,446, 300,000 for Mrs Allison-Madueke, EFCC said
The sum of N9,080,000,000 is in First Bank Plc, EFCC added.
On how Mrs Allison-Madueke diverted the money, EFCC told the court that in December 2014, Diezani invited former Fidelity Bank Managing Director, Nnamdi Okonkwo, to her office.
There, they allegedly hatched a plan on how $153,310,000 would be moved from NNPC to Okonkwo to be saved for Diezani.
EFCC said Diezani instructed Okonkwo to ensure that the money was not easily traced.
She asked him to guarantee that the money would “neither be credited into any known account nor captured in any transaction platforms” of Fidelity Bank.
The commission said Okonkwo accepted and implemented the deal.
The result was the movement of $153,310,000 from NNPC to Fidelity Bank.
EFCC said two former Group Executive Directors of Finance and Account of NNPC, B.O.N. Otti and Stanley Lawson, helped Diezani to move the cash from NNPC, Abuja to the bank’s Lagos headquarters.
The commission said in a desperate bid to conceal the source of the money, Okonkwo instructed the Country Head of Fidelity Bank, Mr. Martin Izuogbe, to take $113,310,000 out of the money to the Executive Director, Commercial and Institutional Bank, Sterling Bank, Lanre Adesanya, to hide.
He said the remaining $40million was taken in cash to the Executive Director, Public Sector Accountant, First Bank, Dauda Lawal.
EFCC said out of the $113,310,000 handed over to Adesanya, $108,310,000 was invested in an off balance sheet investment using Sterling Asset Management Trustees Limited.
The commission said the $108,310,000 was subsequently changed to N23,446, 300,000 and saved in Sterling Bank.
EFCC said it had recovered the N23.4billion in draft and had registered it as an exhibit marked EFCC 01.
It also recovered another $5million out of the money kept with Access Bank Managing Director, Mr. Herbert Wigwe.
The $5million was recovered in draft and had been registered as an exhibit marked EFCC 02.
EFCC said First Bank’s Executive Director, Lawal, had converted the $40million kept with him to N9,080,000,000.
Justice Hassan yesterday ordered the temporary forfeiture of all the monies to the Federal Government.
He gave Sterling Bank and any other interested party 14 days to appear before him to prove the legitimacy of the monies.
Should they fail to prove the monies’ source, they would be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government, the judge added.
The order was based on an ex-parte application by EFCC seeking the temporary forfeiture of the funds.
In a nine-paragraph supporting affidavit, an EFCC investigator, Moses Awolusi, claimed that the anti-graft agency discovered the monumental fraud after a high-powered investigation.
Moving the ex-parte application yesterday, EFCC’s lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, urged Justice Hassan to order the temporary forfeiture of the funds to the Federal Government.
He also prayed the court 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 explain why the funds should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
Oyedepo said the application was brought pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act No. 14, 2006.
It was also based on Section 44(2) of the 1999 Constitution.
Oyedepo, who is EFCC’s leading prosecutor in Lagos and who is passionately handling all the high profile cases, said granting the application was in the interest of justice.
Justice Hassan granted the order and adjourned until January 24.