The embattled former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison Madueke has reportedly opted for a plea bargain and currently, in SECRET talks with the Federal Government on how to make a refund of billions of looted funds in her custody, report according to Saturday Sun suggests.
A 'whistleblower', the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, now the Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi had alleged that a huge sum of $50 billion NNPC money was missing. He later affirmed that it was actually $20 billion. Diezani's problem started from the whistleblowing, News Punch understands
Alison-Madueke has since then been battling cancer and fraud investigations by detectives at the International Corruption Unit, ICU, of the United Kingdom National Crime Agency, UK NCA, which in 2015 arrested her. To fast track the process of his extradition, the Federal Government recently filed a $1.1billion criminal charge against Adoke and others in Abuja.
While the EFCC continues the search for hidden assets of Diezani, Saturday Sun recently reported exclusively that photographs and visuals of the estates linked to Diezani in parts of Nigeria were compiled for the acting Chairman of the commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, to take to London, where he had meetings with UK NCA officials with a view to tightening the noose on the former oil minister.
But beyond the extradition processes, there are strong indications that Mrs. Alison-Madueke may have succumbed to multilateral pressures from security agencies and entered into secret talks with the Federal Government on how to return some billions allegedly linked to her. Just recently, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC had through a federal high court forfeiture order obtained in Lagos confiscated about N35billion cash from some proxy bank accounts linked to the former oil minister. She has, however, denied ownership of the huge fund.
Plea bargain deal?
With her shield crashing from all sides, Saturday Sun gathered that Diezani through a legal team may have begun the process of surrendering huge funds allegedly in her care in exchange for some respite. The details of the deal, however, still remain sketchy and shrouded in secrecy as at the time of filing this report. Though efforts to reach her directly for confirmation did not sail through, sources close to her said they were not aware of the development.
Prosecution or persecution?
Though the former Minister of Petroleum could not be reached for comments, a source close to her who is not authorised to speak to the press said: “It will not be a surprise if the government is still bent on pursuing vendetta and the mindless persecution of the former minister, after all it was the same people that conspired with the British authorities to arrest her from her hospital bed, knowing she is a recuperating cancer patient. Sadly for all of us karma is a bitch with everyone’s address.”
Added the source: “It is unfortunate that no one is interested in the truth and no one is interested in playing by the rule when it comes to the persecution and demonisation of Mrs. Madueke.
“The EFCC has been in the fore front in promoting the growing industry of lies against her. All she is suffering started with the allegation of a missing $50 billion. The whistle blower then was the former CBN Governor, Mallam Sanusi, now Emir of Kano. When confronted to substantiate his outlandish claim, he backed down on the allegation, though the damage has been done. An audit review instituted by the office of the Auditor General of the Federation and conducted by Price Water Cooppers Accounting firm to audit the account of NNPC exonerated Mrs. Madueke, as there was no iota of truth in the allegation of missing $50 billion. The Senate Committee led by Senator Markarfi also found no truth in the allegation. Yet no one is interested in the truth
Sometime, last year, Al Jazeera Television Network released a video documentary, where it claimed the anti graft agency, EFCC, seized a house worth $18 million, which, it claimed, allegedly belonged to Diezani Madueke. The EFCC also claimed jewelries worth $2 million were recovered from the same house.
“Investigation and inquiry into the claims by the EFCC showed that the house in question was not owned by Diezani. EFCC characteristically never bothered to substantiate the claim. Is the EFCC ignorant of the real owner of the property? Of course, they know who owns the property, but must drag Diezani’s name into it to grab media attention and serve an agenda.
“Similar to the above was another claim by EFCC, where it said it uncovered Mrs. Madueke’s hidden estate in Bayelsa State and Banana Island, Lagos. There was nothing hidden about the estate in Bayelsa which was a family house to the Maduekes in her native Bayelsa State. As a serving minister, she publicly declared the property as required by law, as part of her assets before the Code of Conduct Bureau. The question is: can an asset declared by a public officer before a government agency turn around to become a hidden asset?
“In another related development, the EFCC claimed it recovered a whopping $700m from the private home of Mrs. Madueke.
“By every stretch of imagination $700m is a lot of money. For an agency that love to hug the media spotlight like the ant hugs sugar, would it not have made good viewing to put videos or pictures of the alleged $700m for the world to see, just as in the recent cases of the INEC officials and the former group MD of the NNPC? Where is the $700m? Why is the CBN which rightly should be holding custody of such an amount of money not saying anything to collaborate EFCC claims?
“It is obvious Mrs. Madueke is a victim of political persecution as there are forces, individuals and groups who are not happy at the firmness with which she handled the affairs of the NNPC as it wasn’t favorable to their interest.
“Perhaps, her biggest crime was implementing the Nigerian Local Content Act which provided opportunity for other Nigerians to become key players in the oil sector. Before her time as Oil Minister, 85 per cent or more of the people that transact oil business either as product importers or crude oil sales and lifting are either foreigners or people from a particular section of the country. She became a product of hate by this group, not because she was incompetent or a thief looting Nigeria, but because to them, it’s no longer business as usual.
“Almost everything being said about this lady are lies, lies and lies. Sooner than later Nigerians will know the truth.”
When also contacted, Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed neither confirmed nor denied the process.
According to him, “I think the Attorney General is working very hard on the efforts to recoup some of our looted funds; all of them. And I think sometimes too negotiations might not be out of place. In a situation where you have hundreds of millions of dollars locked down, (because people who have looted the funds have admitted the funds are looted, but are joining hands with the host country where they are hiding to say that ‘yes we looted the funds but unless you agree to give us part of it, we would continue to block the repatriation of such funds.’ in such a situation composite agreements and negotiations might be the option and I think the office of the Attorney General is busy doing something. You see because at the end of the day, for us, the primary thing is to get this money back into the country.”
When asked if recovery of the loot drive would make the Federal Government abandon the extradition processes already initiated against the ex-officials on the run, the minister said: “I don’t think the government would give up any of the options. No, no, no, no, even when you have been declared wanted, there are protocols and procedures. Some of which are not something you can discuss every day. But I can assure that between the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we would do everything possible to bring all these matters to logical conclusions. But, I think we are also not ruling out the option of negotiation if that would bring our money back faster, because in many parts of the world too, you do exactly that option. You know what I’m saying is okay; some people are abroad and where they are, there is even no extradition agreement between us and that country and they are holding our money. And they now say ‘okay we are ready to come home. We are ready to surrender to you, but these are the conditions. We are ready to give back this money, but you would give back to us 10 per cent. Or okay, let’s be more precise, they say ‘look, we know this money is looted money, and it is 100 million dollars, we would continue to block the repatriation of this money, unless you agree that out of this 100 million we can keep 20 million there.’
“What do you do in that kind of situation? So, the government would have to look at such options and weigh and say ‘look we are in a recession. Do we need the money more than we need the man?’ and we can say ‘okay, we can always prosecute this man anytime, so let the money come first’. So, it’s not as straight forward as it looks.”
When asked to reconfirm if indeed such talks are ongoing, the minister said: “It is because I know; frankly speaking, it is because I know that such talks are ongoing, but I won’t be free to tell you with who and who.
“But I can tell you that we have a lot of funds held up today because some foreign countries have joined these people. I know at least five, six cases today where one particular lawyer, one lawyer, the same lawyer, he’s the one who’s insisting that unless he takes 40 per cent of the recovered money, he would continue to block it in the country.”
Asked to put a figure to the money government was making efforts to recover from these former officials, Alhaji Mohammed sounded evasive. “In some cases as much as 100milion dollars, 300 million dollars, in some cases as much as 80 million dollars,” he stated, adding that part of the money was stolen by people who were not members of the Jonathan administration
Report excerpted from Saturday Sun Newspaper