Following the recent recovery of 2,149 pieces of jewellery and a customised gold iPhone, valued at $40m, recovered from the Abuja home of a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Monday urged the Federal High Court in Lagos to order the permanent forfeiture of the items.
EFCC in an affidavit deposed by Rufai Zaki, an investigator, the commission insisted that the items recovered were beyond Diezani’s “known and provable lawful income.”
Zaki recalled that Diezani was appointed the Minister of Petroleum Resources on April 12, 2010.
Zaki stated that the investigation carried out by the Anti-graft body revealed that she started acquiring the jewellery in 2012 from one Bukola Oyewumi of Trinket Box Bespoke Jewellery at Ikeja City Mall, Alausa.
He stated that the commission is in possession of the details of the UBA account through which Diezani 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.
He said a “damning intelligence report” received by the EFCC led to the search of Diezani’s house at No. 10 Fredrick Chiluba Close, Asokoro, Abuja.
The Investigator stated that EFCC invited Oyewumi who stated that she started selling jewellery to Diezani in 2012.
According to Zaki, Oyewumi also made available to the EFCC the invoices issued in respect of the jewellery in which ‘Aunty D’ was written as the buyer.
He said the EFCC also discovered that apart from Oyewumi, Diezani also bought jewellery from one Minal Ratanani of Bella Vista Apartment, Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Zaki stated that Ratanani admitted during questioning that Diezani bought jewellery worth $865,300.00 from her over a period and she paid cash.
Counsel for the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, said it was in the best interest of justice for the court to order the permanent forfeiture of the jewellery and the gold iPhone to the Federal Government.
He said 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 properties sought to be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.”
The Counsel to Diezani, Nnamdi Awa-Kalu, however, stated that the seizure of the items amounted to a violation of Diezani’s constitutional right to own properties.
At the end of Monday’s hearing, Justice Nicholas Oweibo adjourned till September 11, 2019 for ruling.