N450m Fraud: Court Dismisses Alison-Madueke Application For Trial In Nigeria

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Nigeria's Oil Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke attends the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos in this January 23, 2013 file photo. To match Special Report NIGERIA-ELECTION/BANKER REUTERS/Pascal Lauener/Files (SWITZERLAND - Tags: BUSINESS HEADSHOT POLITICS ENERGY)

BY OLUGBENGA SOYELE, Lagos

Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday dismissed an application brought by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke urging it to compel the federal government, to bring her back to Nigeria from the United Kingdom for lack of merit.

Justice Rilwan Aikawa, in a ruling on the application filed by Mrs. Alison-Madueke, seeking the help of the government to facilitate her return to defend a criminal charge bordering on alleged laundering of N450m, held that he would not be used to frustrate the former Minister’s trial in the United Kingdom.

The judge specifically described the application as bizarre and an abuse of court process, insisting that he would not allow himself to be used to frustrate Diezani’s imminent trial in the United Kingdom, where she is currently being investigated and on bail.

He also maintained that having not been listed as a defendant in the charge, there is no offence yet being made against the Former Minister and she is “merely crying wolf where there is none”.

Justice Aikawa further noted that Mrs. Alison-Madueke did not also deny the claims of the EFCC that she is currently on bail in the UK where she is being investigated for several financial crimes and her filing of the application was merely a ploy to escape justice in the U.K.

The judge also held that this is not the proper time to join the former Minister as a defendant in the trial and that the court lacks the power to interfere with the powers of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).

Mrs. Alison-Madueke had sought to be joined as a defendant in the N450 million fraud charge slammed on a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Dele Belgore and a former Minister of Planning, Professor Abubakar Sulaiman, by the EFCC.

The embattled former Minister had prayed the court to compel the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) to bring her back from the United Kingdom, where she has been since 2015 to put up her defence in the case.

In a five count amended charge, Diezani was alleged to have conspired with Belgore and Sulaiman on or about March 27, 2015, to directly take possession of the sum of N450 million, which they reasonably ought to have known forms part of proceeds of unlawful act.

The trio were alleged to have taken the said funds in cash, which exceeded the amount authorized by law, without going through any financial institutions.

Belgore and Sulaiman were also alleged to have paid the sum of N50 million to one, Sheriff Shagaya, without going through any bank.

The offences were said to be contrary to Sections 18(a), 15(2)(d), 1(a), 16(d) and punishable under Sections 15(3) and 4, 16 (2)(b), and 16(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.

Also during Wednesday proceedings, the second prosecution witness, Usman Zakari, an investigator with the EFCC continued his testimony.

In his testimony, the Investigator told the court that the two defendants admitted collecting the N450m from Mrs Diezani.

Zakari also stated that the anti-graft agency also had proof of the receipt they signed in acknowledgment.

The witness claimed that the monies were allegedly collected through a bank in which they had no accounts.

Justice Aikawa later ordered that the Deputy Chief Registrar of the court to release Belgore’s International Passport.

The court ordered the release while ruling on an application filed by Belgore seeking permission to travel to Ghana for an international conference on the 14th of Nov.

Justice Rilwan Aikawa also ordered that the passport should be returned on or before the 22nd of Nov.

The court has adjourned till the 13th, 14th of November for the continuation of the witness testimony.