By Taiye Agbaje
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court in Abuja, on Tuesday, threatened to strike out the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)’s suit against former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, if it failed to have her extradited to Nigeria by March 2020.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the EFCC had, on November 11, 2018, filed 13 counts of money laundering against the ex-minister.
The anti-graft agency accused her of unlawfully taking into her possession the sums of $39.7 million and N3.32 billion with which she allegedly bought choice property in Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt in Rivers State while she was in office.
When the matter came up on Tuesday Justice. Ojukwu threatened to strike out the money laundering case of the commission failed to produce the defendant in court by March 2020.
Counsel to the prosecution, Faruk Abdullah, earlier pleaded with the judge to adjourn the case sine die (indefinitely), on the grounds that the EFCC was facing challenges in its bid to extradite the defendant from the United Kingdom (UK).
Diezani had been in the UK facing corruption investigations since 2015 when she left office as minister.
Abdullah told Justice Ojukwu that given the circumstances, it would be better for the case to be adjourned indefinitely so that it would not continue to “clog” the court’s docket.
Reacting, the judge said: “My docket is not going to be a waiting room for the prosecution.
“I will give you one more adjournment. If nothing happens on the next date, I will strike it out,” the judge warned.
The judge, in her ruling, adjourned the matter till March 10 “for report or striking out.”
NAN reports that the EFCC, which filed the suit in November 2018, had said that Diezani ought to have known that the money formed part of the proceeds of unlawful activities.
She was said to have purchased choice landed assets with the money using different fronts as the owners.
In September 2013, she allegedly used the name of Rusimpex Limited to acquire a property named Block B3 comprising of six penthouses and 18 flats at Zone N Federal Government Layout, also known as Bella Vista Estate, Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos, with the sum of $37.5m.
On June 4, 2012, she was said to have used the name of Azinga Meados Limited to buy 13 three-bedroom terrace houses with one room maids’ quarters at Mabushi Gardens Estate, Abuja, with the sum of N650m.
In May 2012, she allegedly used the name of chapel properties to buy eight four-bedroom terrace houses, two three-bedroom penthouses, six three-bedrooms apartments, two three-bedrooms Mansionette, two-bedroom apartments, one four-bedroom apartment at No. 4/6 Thorbun Avenue, and No 5 Raymond Street, Yaba, Lagos, with N937m.
She was also said to have in May 2012, purchased in the name of Blue Nile Estate Limited, 16 four-bedroom terrace houses at Plot 2C, Omerelu Street Diabu GRA, Port Harcourt Rivers State, with N928m.
She was also said to have in January 2011 bought in the name of Vista Point Company Limited, six flats of three-bedrooms with one boys’ quarters each, lawn tennis court, gym, garden and appurtenances, at 135 Awolowo Road/Bourdillon Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, with N805m.
The ex-minster was also said to have in December 2011, bought in the name of Sequoyah Properties Limited, a property at 12, Forces Avenue, Old GRA, Port Harcourt measuring 4,890 square meters with $2.2m.
Her alleged offences which she was said to have committed between November 20, 2011 and September 2013 were said to be contrary to Section 15(2), (d) of the Money Laundering Act, 2011, as amended in 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.