The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) has frozen a £10million worth of London property allegedly bought for Diezani Alison-Madueke as investigations into the case against the former minister unravels by the day.
Two properties at Regents Park in London, along with one in Buckinghamshire, have now been frozen based on the request of Nigerian authorities.
A London court gave the frozen order in September 2016 but details of the rulings have only recently become public.
But the agency was too late in preventing a further two properties worth £8m from being sold.
In July, the U.S. Department of Justice revealed four properties it alleged were bought for the former petroleum minister by individuals and firms seeking her influence in obtaining lucrative oil asset and crude oil lifting contracts.
Some of the oil asset were assigned to people believed to be her cronies through controversial Strategic Alliance Agreements.
The DoJ’s affidavit stated that businessmen Jide Omokore and Kola Aluko were involved in the purchase of two of the properties allegedly bought for Mrs. Alison-Madueke.
The UK order obtained by journalists at Africa Confidential has revealed that three of the properties have been frozen under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Apart from Mrs. Alison-Madueke, Mr. Omokore and Mr. Aluko, the order also named three other individuals as defendants in the case, all of whom are believed to have received contracts or oil asset from the NNPC during the embattled minister’s tenure.
They include Aiteo’s Chief Executive Officer, Benedict Peters, a jeweler named Christopher Aire, and a lawyer named Donald Amamgbo. All received contracts from the NNPC. The order forbids the defendants from disposing of or dealing in the properties.
But although the NCA has frozen three properties worth £10 million, the agency was too late to prevent a further two properties worth £8 million from being sold.
One of these, a massive nine-bedroom house in London’s exclusive Hampstead Garden Suburb, bought by a BVI company in January 2011 for £5,850,000- was sold in May 2015.
Similarly, the property at 39 Chester Close, one of the properties listed in the DoJ case, which was bought by Kola Aluko’s BVI based Mortlake Investments for £1.73 million, was sold in July 2015, months before the NCA initially arrested the former Minister.
UK estate agent, Daniel Ford & Co, assisted in the purchases of three of the properties, and UK solicitors firms, Addie & Co and Gordon’s Partnership, were conveyancers of the deals.
According to Corruption Watch, a UK NGO, investigators should look carefully at these organisations’ due diligence practices.
The order signals a step up in the UK’s investigation of the former minister, who was first arrested by the NCA in October 2015, when the agency confiscated her passport and £27,000 in cash found in her apartment.
However the extent of the evidence against the former minister and the other defendants remains unclear.
The September 2016 forfeiture proceeding of the properties was held in private, meaning that the evidence that the NCA presented to support the seizure is not accessible.
This evidence will be critical. Although Messrs Peters, Aire and Amamgbo all had lucrative contracts with the NNPC, and are all accused of lavish spending for Mrs Alison-Madueke, this alone will not be enough to secure criminal prosecutions against any of them, analysts say.
“In the U.S. and U.K., simply buying luxury items for a government official like Ms. Alison-Madueke isn’t against the law,” says Aaron Sayne, a Financial Investigator and Senior Governance Officer at the National Resource Governance Institute.
“Investigators have to link the money involved to a crime that happened in Nigeria. And if the crime is bribery, they must also show that the items purchased rewarded her for helping someone win a government contract. That’s not easy to prove, especially well enough to stand up in court.”
The DoJ’s case included transcripts of conversations in which the minister appears to admit her role in awarding the SAAs to Atlantic – but it is still unclear whether the UK has additional evidence relating to the contracts that Messrs. Amamgbo, Peters, and Aire received during Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s tenure.
Neither Donald Amamgbo and Christopher Aire had experience in the oil business when their newly minted trading firms picked up term contracts from the NNPC: Mr. Amamgbo was an attorney, Mr. Aire a jeweler.
And this practice of giving oil contracts to inexperienced firms picked for political connections has not ended, however.
“Patronage and self-enrichment are still the driving forces behind many sales,” according to Mr. Sayne, though he admits that the NNPC, has “sanitized some of its oil sales processes under President Buhari”.
SOLD: 39 Chester Close North- Bought by Kola Aluko’s BVI company, Mortlake Investments, in March 2011 for £1,730,000. Mrs. Alison-Madueke is alleged to have selected the stone flooring for the property in a renovation also led by Kola Aluko. The property was sold in July 2015, months before the NCA initially arrested the former Minister, for £2,800,000.
SOLD: Winnington Road
A massive nine-bedroom property in Hampstead Garden Suburb – one of London’s most exclusive areas– was on the NCA’s list of properties to be frozen. However the property was sold in May 2015, before by the time the UK received a request from the Nigerian authorities to freeze the property. The property was bought by BVI company Hampstead Corporate Limited in January 2011 for £5,850,000.
The beneficial ownership of Hampstead Corporate, and its connection to the named defendants in the UK freezing order, is unknown
FROZEN: The Falls, Buckinghamshire- Bought by Jide Omokore’s Seychellois company Miranda Investments for £3,250,000 in January 2011. Used UK law firm Addie & Co.
Mrs. Alison-Madueke was the only known resident of the property, and was addressed by the staff there as “the Madam”, according to the DoJ’s case, which also states that Kola Aluko engaged a construction company to upgrade the property. The property was briefly marketed by estate agent Brampton Partnership in August 2015.
FROZEN: Harley House- Bought by Seychellois company Rosewood Investments for £2,800,000 in March 2011, and now revealed to be beneficially owned by Aiteo Chief Executive Officer Benedict Peters.
Construction workers renovating Harley House over the summer of 2011 were introduced to Mrs. Alison-Madueke as “the architect”, and Kola Aluko, who was co-ordinating the renovation of Harley House in the summer of 2011, forwarded the plans for the apartment to the former minister.
The property is furnished with some of the $107,000 luxury furnishings bought for Mrs Alison-Madueke by Mr. Peters.
FROZEN: Park View – Bought by Seychelles company Colinwood Ltd, whose ownership is unknown, in March 2011 for £3,750,000. Used UK law firm Gordon’s.
According to the DoJ documents, the purchase was financed with a mortgage from the UK branch of FBN Bank, obtained by “co-conspirator #1” – who is believed to be Christopher Aire.
According to the DoJ’s case, Mr. Aluko co-ordinated renovations to Park View, and Mrs. Alison-Madueke met with the construction worker to discuss the renovations.
‘I can’t be blackmailed, no more business as usual’ – FCC boss, Dankaka spits fire
The Executive Chairman, Federal Character Commission (FCC), Dr Muheeba Dankaka, has said nobody can blackmail her over sponsored false and fabricated stories to smear the Commission and her name, in her quest to return sanity to the system.
Dankaka also warned the purveyors of the fake news to get used to ‘no more business as usual’ as indeed the Commission has entered a new dispensation.
According to her, the Commissioners cannot work in isolation, stressing that the Directors and Career officers will join in the smooth operation of the Commission
The FCC boss, in a statement released on Tuesday and made available to newsmen in Abuja, by the Commission’s Director of Public Affairs & Communication, Dipo Akinsola, disclosed that no fewer than thirty commissioners are currently working in harmony to bring positive changes. She added that under her watch, the Commission has recorded successes in all areas and centralized the administrative structure of the monitoring and enforcement department.
The statement reads, “My attention has been drawn to a social media report in circulation in which it is alleged that some commissioners accused me of holding them to ransom by taking over their jobs and giving same to Directors with impunity. Over 30 Honourable Commissioners are currently working in harmony with me in bringing positive changes.
“Five of the Commissioners are fighting for their personal and selfish interests; they want business as usual in the Commission which is not possible under my watch. The contents of the publication are false and mere fabricated stories to dent my image and that of the commission through social media.”
Dankaka, in the statement, also revealed that the monthly monitoring allowance of Commissioners has been embedded into their monthly salaries as approved by the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RAMFAC).
“These allegations are not true in all areas. We assumed office during the peak of the terrifying COVID-19 which slows down the operation of government generally.
“We thank God that there is an improvement in the allocation to the Commission by President Muhammadu Buhari, once the implementation of the year’s budget commences, there will be an improvement in the activities of the commission”, Dankaka assured.
DAWN commission proffers solution to fulani herdsmen, farmers skirmishes
The Development Agenda for Western Nigeria, DAWN Commission, has proffered solution to the frequent skirmishes between farmers and Fulani herders in Nigeria, attributing it to the archaic open grazing practice.
DAWN Commission, through its Director General, Mr Seye Oyeleye suggested that governments at all levels should make urgent arrangements to stop open grazing adding that in the 21st century, nobody should be engaging in this practice.
He advised the government and stakeholders to embrace modern methods of cattle ranching.
According to him, “governments at all levels and the stakeholders in the agricultural sector should accept and embrace modern methods of cattle ranching to solve the recurrent problem of collision between farmers and herders”.
Speaking on the agenda that brought Lagos state into the fold of O’dua Investment Company after it was initially excluded by past western states’ leaders, the DG said the coming on board of the former capital of Nigeria is already adding more economic benefits to O’dua, DAWN commission and to the sister states including Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti.
He said, “Lagos State has the fourth biggest economy in Africa. It is only logical that the governors decided that Lagos should be brought on board at O’dua and DAWN Commission did a lot of work in the background because Lagos State is an integral part of Yorubaland. It is a logical thing for the five states to collaborate and work with Lagos”.
DAWN Commission boss made all these known on Monday evening while featuring on Parrot Xtra Hour on Radio in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
Continuing, Oyeleye also informed that the commission was established to promote and engender cooperation and faster development among the six states in the western part of Nigeria, since they have the same economy, culture, challenges and speak the same language.
He equally avowed that the six states have been speaking with one voice in several areas in relation to the recent developments that was experienced by the collaborating states which led to the ban placed on all forms of open grazing in all parts of the South-West as adopted by all stakeholders during the recently held governors’ meeting in Akure, Ondo State.
He said, “prior to the coming of DAWN, the six states did not have any formal avenue to meet. The coming of the commission created an official platform for the states to come together on a regular basis to work towards economic development”.
On the issue of restructuring of the country being clamored for by the people of the western states, the DAWN Commission Boss stated that Nigeria is not a truly federal state. He noted that the powers given to the federal government by the constitution made it too powerful and this has not helped the states, adding that his commission is working on advocacy to ensure that the yearnings of the people of the region are respected.
He condemned the 1955 Railways Act that gave only the Federal Government the exclusive rights to the building of railways.
While addressing the issue of the South West Security Network codenamed Amotekun, he stated that the governors must be given kudos for implementing the idea while praising them for their determination to see to the success of the project despite the teething problems encountered at the initial stage.
Oyeleye, however, disclosed that the commission is open to receiving support from well-meaning Nigerians and private sectors in terms of technical and financial help while admonishing that the governors should do more to ensure that the commission is well funded.
Catholic bishops advocate review of Nigeria’s security architecture
Catholic Bishops of Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province, comprising Ibadan Archdiocese, Ilorin, Ondo, Oyo, Ekiti and Osogbo Dioceses, on Tuesday called for a thorough review of Nigeria’s security architecture.
The bishops, who gathered at the Jubilee Conference Centre in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital, also expressed concern over the rising insecurity in the country, adding that it was unfortunate that the Federal Government has remained impervious to this call.
The meeting had in attendance, Most. Rev. Gabriel Abegunrin, (Ibadan), Most. Rev. Felix Ajakaiye (Ekiti), Most. Rev. Emmanuel Badejo (Oyo), Most. Rev. Felix Job (Ibadan).
Others are: Most. Rev. AyoMaria Atoyebi (Ibadan), Most. Rev. John Oyejola (Osogbo), Most. Rev. Jude Arogundade (Ondo) and Most. Rev. Paul Olawoore (Ilorin).
According to them, “With the current realities, it has become more necessary than ever to demand the review of Nigeria’s security architecture. Given the campaign promises of the present government and the cauldrons of insecurity erupting all over the country, it is unfortunate that the Federal Government has remained impervious to this call. As a consequence, we parade a Nigerian Army that has not been able to effectively check the atrocities of Boko Haram for over a decade. How does one deny the allegation that kidnapping and banditry are abetted by government when even State governments pay bandits and herdsmen as a means of placating them?
“How can we claim to have a Nigeria Police, when the body is no longer trusted to protect the same people it was set up to serve in many parts of the country?”, the bishops questioned.
The Catholic Bishops, in a communique jointly signed by the President, Most Rev. Gabriel Abegunrin and the Secretary, Most Rev. John Oyejola at the end of their first meeting for the year 2021, identified the ongoing effort of the governors of some South Western States to regulate the activities of Fulani herdsmen within the zone, noting that insincerity, selfish interests and lack of political will had in the past, caused needless destruction of life and property and inflicted untold pain and hardship on innocent citizens.
However, they urged the governors to shun deceptive adulations and empty promises on issues that impact the security of life and property.
The communique read, “they must work with the security agencies to courageously implement the law in all cases and sanction those who blatantly and murderously flout it in their territories. No Nigerian or foreigner should be above the law in any part of the country.
“It is frustrating to see Governors, constitutionally empowered as the first security officers of their States, being impeded and rendered ineffective by mitigating actions and pronouncements allegedly made on behalf of the Federal government, when they take lawful steps to respond to security needs in their States. Such manner of governance, that exerts itself to protect the interest of a segment of the population at the expense of the security of life and property of the majority, makes the emergence of militias and self-appointed messiahs inevitable.
“We therefore join all well-meaning Nigerians who have called on the authorities to allow alternative and lawful initiatives which are established for protecting life and property like the South Western Security Network (SWSN), codenamed Amotekun, to thrive. Such initiatives deserve to be supported and optimised as a complimentary security organization for the benefit of the people in different parts of Nigeria”.
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