Operatives of the Economic Financial Crimes Commission have taken over the residence of the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, in Asokoro, Abuja.
The operatives stormed Alison-Madueke’s residence on Friday shortly after she was arrested by the police in the United Kingdom.
The EFCC officials, who were fully armed, were sighted in two buses at the gate of the residence as of 8pm on Friday.
They had earlier stormed the place with three trucks, one of which was marked ‘police.’
Earlier, the former minister was arrested by the operatives of the National Crime Agency in London, the United Kingdom.
Investigations revealed that Alison-Madueke was arrested in relation to offences bordering on fraud and bribery.
The Spokesman for the UK High Commission in Abuja, Joe Abuku, confirmed to one of our correspondents that five persons were arrested by the agency.
The International Corruption Unit of the NCA, on its website, also confirmed the arrest of five people across London as part of an investigation into suspected bribery and money laundering activities.
The ICU is mainly responsible for investigating international corruption affecting developing countries.
Findings also revealed that her arrest was connected with her alleged mismanagement of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and missing funds in the corporation.
It was learnt that the Seizure Organised Crime Agency within the National Crimes Agency of the UK was responsible for arresting Alison-Madueke over the ongoing probe of allegations against her.
It was also learnt that Alison-Madueke was picked up by operatives of the SOCA at the instance of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which had also been probing her in Nigeria, discreetly.
Saturday PUNCH investigations revealed that the SOCA has a working agreement with the EFCC in the area of investigation of allegations of financial crimes and proceeds of such crimes.
The source said, “It is true that the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Alison-Maduake, has been arrested by the UK’s National Crimes Agency, not the Metropolitan Police.
“There is an agency within the National Crimes Agency called the Seizures Organised Crimes Agency. She was actually arrested by operatives of SOCA because the agency has a working agreement with the EFCC.
“We have been cooperating with SOCA on a number of issues. “I can tell you that Diezani is being quizzed over allegations of bribery and fraud by the UK police.”
Investigations further revealed that the EFCC dispatched a team of crack investigators to Alison-Madueke’s residence at Frederick Chiluba Avenue, Asokoro, Abuja, moments after the commission was alerted that the investigation had commenced from the UK’s end.
It was further gathered that the EFCC operatives were still searching her residence as of the time of filing this report.
A relation of Alison-Madueke, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed her arrest to one of our correspondents on Friday.
Our correspondent could not get the Head of Media and Publicity of the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, to comment on the issue as repeated calls to his mobile telephone line indicated that it was either switched off or in an area outside network coverage.
Speaking to one of our correspondents on the telephone, an official of the NCA, who didn’t disclose his identity, said he could not comment on an ongoing investigation.
“I’m afraid I cannot comment on an ongoing investigation,” he said. Another official of the ICU, who also didn’t disclose his identity, told Saturday PUNCH on the telephone that he could neither confirm nor deny that the former petroleum minister was arrested.
“It is part of our policy not to disclose information like that to anyone, so I cannot confirm nor deny that she has been arrested,” the official said.
Another official at the Press Office of the Department for International Development said he would get in touch with Saturday PUNCH on the development, but he had yet to do so as of the time of publishing this report.
The ICU, however, said it was stepping up its work to investigate cases of international corruption affecting developing countries. Its International Development Secretary, Justine Greening, on the agency’s website, said, “Corruption is not only picking the pockets of the poor, it is an enemy of prosperity and a brake on a country’s development. Through the international corruption unit, the best of British law enforcement will step up our aid work combating corruption head on across the developing world.”
The Joint Head of the ICU, Jon Benton, also said the work the agency was doing was absolutely vital for helping developing countries get back what is rightfully theirs.
“The UK has zero tolerance for overseas bribery and corruption,” he said.
Meanwhile, a source at the EFCC confirmed to The Cable, an online newspaper that the commission carried out a raid on Friday at the residence of the former minister.
The raid took place just few minutes after the ICU arrested the former minister, the report said.
“The raid on her [Alison-Madueke] residence today (Friday) yielded vital information that will help in the prosecution of the case. Many agencies across several countries are involved in this investigation. Anti-money laundering agencies in Austria, France, Switzerland, Nigeria and the UK are working together on it,” the source was quoted to have said.
The former petroleum resources minister’s arrest came two days after President Muhammadu Buhari announced himself as Nigeria’s Minister of Petroleum.
He had vowed to recover all looted funds worth several millions of dollars that were allegedly stolen in the petroleum ministry under the watch of Alison-Madueke, who had become an object of attacks from Nigerians over scandals that rocked the ministry during the former administration.
For instance, in June 2008, Alison-Madueke was subjected to a Senate probe after it emerged that as Transport Minister, she had paid N30.9bn ($263m) to contractors between December 26 and 31, 2007. She is said to be worth over N1bn.
However, she has never been officially charged or tried for these allegations and has strongly denied any wrongdoing. She was alleged to have spent billions of dollars inappropriately on private jets and responsible for some $20bn, reportedly missing.
She is also widely accused of reckless spending of government funds. When contacted, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said, “I have no comment or information on it. It is a security matter.”
Meanwhile, EFCC operatives also stormed the home of Jide Omokore, one of her business allies while she was the oil minister.
Omokore owns SPOG and Atlantic Energy and is said to be involved in multi-billion dollar oil deals, including kerosene scam that denied Nigeria’s treasury by over $6bn.
It was reported by Sahara Reporters that Omokore’s 9 Turnbull Street home in Ikoyi, Lagos and his Glover Street, Ikoyi office were raided by the EFCC operatives.
It was, however, learnt that the former minister was granted bail hours after she was detained by the ICU.
A report by Channels TV said that the London Police confirmed that she had been charged to court for money laundering and she’s expected to appear at the Charing Cross Police Station for questioning on Monday. (Punch)