ASSET RECOVERY: Former Minister Kicks as EFCC Seeks Final Forfeiture of N14 Billion Jewellery

A former Petroleum Resources Minister, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, has urged the Federal High Court in Lagos to refuse an application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) seeking the final forfeiture of her 2,149 pieces of jewellery and a customised golden iPhone. The court, on July 5, ordered the temporary forfeiture of the items valued at $40 million (about N14.4 billion), which were recovered from the former minister’s home.

Justice Nicholas Oweibo ruled on an ex parte application in which the commission said the items were suspected to be bought with illicitly acquired funds. But, in a counter-motion filed through her lawyer, Prof Awa Kalu (SAN), the former minister urged the court to order that the items be returned to her. She accused the EFCC of illegally gaining access to her apartment and taking the items without a court order. According to her, EFCC did not charge her with any crime or serve her with any summons.

Mrs Alison-Madueke said the temporary forfeiture order was prejudicial to her because she was denied fair hearing. Hearing on the application was stalled yesterday due to Prof Kalu’s absence. A lawyer from his chambers, Chukwuka Obidike, said the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) was handling an election petition case.  Mrs Alison-Madueke is the defendant in the application filed pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act Number 14, 2006.

The EFCC said it found and recovered the jewellery and the customised golden iPhone on the premises of the respondent. The anti-graft agency added that it reasonably suspected that the former minister acquired them with “proceeds of unlawful activities. According to a schedule attached to the application, the jewellery, categorised into 33 sets, include 419 expensive bangles and 315 expensive rings. Others are: 304 expensive earrings, 267 expensive necklaces, 189 expensive wristwatches and 174 expensive necklaces and earrings. The rest are: 78 expensive bracelets, 77 expensive brooches and 74 expensive pendants.

EFCC said: The respondent’s known and provable lawful income is far less than the properties sought to be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria. Justice Oweibo ordered that the 2,149 pieces of jewellery and the customised gold iPhone be temporarily forfeited to the Federal Government.

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