The Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered that the 2,149 pieces of jewellery and a customised gold iPhone, valued at $40m and recovered from the Abuja home of a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
In a ruling on Tuesday, Justice Nicholas Oweibo held that Diezani, through her lawyer, Awa Kalu (SAN), failed to show cause why the items should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had told the judge that the jewellery and gold iPhone were reasonably suspected to have been acquired with proceeds of fraud.
According to the schedule attached to an application filed by the EFCC, the jewellery, categorised into 33 sets, include “419 expensive bangles; 315 expensive rings; 304 expensive earrings; 267 expensive necklaces; 189 expensive wristwatches; 174 expensive necklaces and earrings; 78 expensive bracelets; 77 expensive brooches and 74 expensive pendants.”
In an affidavit deposed to by Rufai Zaki, an investigator, the EFCC insisted that the items were beyond Diezani’s “known and provable lawful income.”
Zaki recalled that Diezani was appointed the minister of petroleum resources on April 12, 2010.
He said findings by the EFCC showed she started acquiring the jewellery in 2012 from one Bukola Oyewumi of Trinket Box Bespoke Jewellery at Ikeja City Mall, Alausa.
The investigator said the EFCC was in possession of the details of the UBA account through which Diezani received her salary as a minister.
“The respondent did not utilise her salary or any part of her legitimate income to acquire the assets sought to be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria,” Zaki said.
He said a “damning intelligence report” received by the EFCC led to the search of Diezani’s house at No10 Fredrick Chiluba Close, Asokoro, Abuja.
Zaki’s said the EFCC invited Oyewumi and she made a statement, saying she started selling jewellery to Diezani in 2012.
According to Zaki, Oyewumi also made available to the EFCC the invoices issued in respect of the jewellery in which ‘Aunty D’ was written as the buyer.
He said the EFCC also discovered that apart from Oyewumi, Diezani also bought jewellery from one Minal Ratanani of Bella Vista Apartment, Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos.
According to him, Ratanani admitted during questioning by the EFCC that Diezani bought jewellery worth $865,300.00 from her over a period and she paid cash.
Counsel for the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, said it was in the best interest of justice for the court to order the permanent forfeiture of the jewellery and the gold iPhone to the Federal Government.
He said the court was empowered to make such forfeiture order under Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offence Act 2006, because “the respondent’s known and provable lawful income is far less than the properties sought to be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.”