Nigerian Court Orders Forfeiture Of $153.3 Million Stolen From Oil Company. How The Money Was Concealed

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A Nigerian court ruled on Friday that billions of naira allegedly stolen from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and secretly deposited into three banks be forfeited to the Federal Government.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had told the Federal High Court in Lagos that money stolen from NNPC, when former oil minister, Alison Madueke was in office under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, was deposited into Sterling Bank, First Bank and Access Bank.

While N23.4 billion was kept in Sterling Bank Plc, the sum of  N9.08 billion was saved in First Bank Plc. About $5 million was lodged into an Access Bank Plc account.

In all, the total sum amounted to about $153.3 million, the anti-graft agency said.

Lagos Federal High Court Justice  Muslim Hassan gave the three banks 14 days to appear before him to prove the legitimacy of the funds or lose them permanently to the Federal Government.

The EFCC had approached the court, seeking the temporary forfeiture of the funds it said belonged to the Nigerian government.

EFCC investigator, Moses Awolusi, who traced the alleged stolen funds described how they were stolen.

He said sometime in December 2014, shortly before the Presidential election of 2015, Diezani invited a former Managing Director of Fidelity Bank Plc, Nnamdi Okonkwo, to her office to move  $153,310,000 from NNPC to his bank.

Diezani, according to Awolusi, instructed Okonkwo to ensure the money was “neither credited into any known account nor captured in any transaction platforms” of Fidelity Bank.

Everything went well. Okonkwo accepted and implemented the deal leading to the movement of $153,310,000 from NNPC to Fidelity Bank.

He said two former Group Executive Directors of Finance and Account of NNPC, B.O.N. Otti and Stanley Lawson, helped Diezani move the cash from NNPC, Abuja to the headquarters of Fidelity Bank in Lagos. Diezani was the oil minister and was not directly in charge of the NNPC.

The News Agency of Nigeria quoted the investigator Awolusi as telling the court that in a desperate bid to conceal the source of the money, Okonkwo, upon receiving it, instructed the Country Head of Fidelity Bank, Mr. Martin Izuogbe, to take $113,310,000 cash out of the money to the Executive Director, Commercial and Institutional Bank, Sterling Bank Plc, Lanre Adesanya, to keep.

He said the remaining $40m was taken in cash to the Executive Director, Public Sector Accountant, First Bank, Dauda Lawal, to keep.

The investigator said out of the $113,310,000 handed over to Adesanya, a sum of $108,310,000 was invested in an off balance sheet investment using Sterling Asset Management Trustees Limited.

The money was subsequently converted into N23.4 billion and saved in Sterling Bank.

Awolusi said the EFCC had recovered the N23.4bn in draft and had registered it as an exhibit marked, EFCC 01.

The investigator said the EFCC had also recovered another $5m out of the money kept with the Managing Director of Access Bank Plc, Mr. Herbert Wigwe.

He said the $5m was recovered in draft and had been registered as an exhibit marked, EFCC 02.

According to him, First Bank’s Executive Director, Lawal had  similarly converted the $40m kept with him to N9,080,000,000.

Awolusi, however, said the EFCC had recovered that also in draft and registered it as Exhibit EFCC 03.

Moving the ex parte application today, the EFCC lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, urged Justice Hassan to order the temporary forfeiture of the funds to the Federal Government and 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 show cause why the funds should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.

Justice Hassan granted the order and adjourned till January 24, 2016 for the respondents to appear in court to show cause why the funds should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

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