Battle to recover looted funds shifts to Dubai

Attorney-General of the Federation/Justice Minister  Abubakar Malami and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) Chairman  Ibrahim Magu have landed in Dubai,United Arab Emirates  (UAE) in a renewed battle to retrieve the  looted funds allegedly stashed in that country by Nigerian politicians.

The two ranking officials,The Nation can now report,are already comparing notes with their UAE counterparts on how to repatriate the money back home.

It is Malami’s and Magu’s second trip to UAE in one year on the issue.

Choice mansions and malls in Dubai are some of the assets traced to the  suspects, including serving public officers.

The Federal Government has in its possession a list of such Politically Exposed Persons( PEPs) and their assets.

The current trip by Malami and Magu comes on the heels of on the spot investigation of the bank accounts and landed properties of the affected suspects by a team of EFCC detectives,sources familiar with the matter said yesterday.

It was during one of the trips that the detectives uncovered two luxury apartments, worth  74m Dirham, which they believed  to belong to former Petroleum Resources Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke in Dubai.

Others exposed  by the investigation to  have  looted cash and properties in Dubai include a former First Lady, five ex-governors, six former ministers, a former Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service( NCS), and one or two former presidential aides.

One of the sources said yesterday that the Malami/Magu trip  is a follow up to “the pact between the Federal Government and the UAE authorities last year.”

The source said the list of the suspects “will be submitted to UAE authorities for verification and confiscation. The UAE government has promised the Federal Government that it will not shield any suspect.

“Some of the assets under investigation have been traced to some serving and  former governors, ex-ministers and some beneficiaries of the $2.1billion arms scandal.

” For instance two apartments, worth about 74million Dirham, have been traced to ex-Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke. “The apartments include one marked as J5 Emirates Hills (30million Dirham) and another tagged E146 Emirates Hills valued at 44million Dirham.

“Some suspected apartments identified with some past and present political office holders were marked during a recent survey.

“Definitely, the Federal Government wants these assets confiscated. And the seizure process requires court backing. The good thing is that the AGF and Magu are on the same page, they now have a better understanding of each other.”

The source said as part of the working visit, the activities of some Dubai property companies in the country might be reviewed.

It was also gathered  that some of these UAE firms were used by some public officers for money laundering.

Another source added: “The EFCC actually raided one of the companies and retrieved sensitive documents and vital computers.

“A top Nigerian lost about $402, 000 (N136.6m) to the company due to a phony real estate transaction.

” EFCC has also arrested two suspects for ferrying $986,000(about N147, 900,000) to Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Sections 28 and 34 of the EFCC (Establishment Act) 2004 and Section 13(1) of the Federal High Court Act, 2004 empower the anti-graft agency to invoke Interim Assets Forfeiture Clause.

“Section 28 of the EFCC Act reads: ‘Where a person is arrested for an offence under this Act, the Commission shall immediately trace and attach all the assets and properties of the person acquired as a result of such economic or financial crime and shall thereafter cause to be obtained an interim attachment order from the Court.’

Section 13 of the Federal High Court Act reads in part : “The Court may grant an injunction or appoint a receiver by an interlocutory order in all cases in which it appears to the Court to be just or convenient so to do.

(2)          Any such order may be made either unconditionally or on such terms and conditions as the Court thinks just.”

President Muhammadu Buhari in January 2016 signed a “Judicial Agreement on Extradition, Transfer of Sentenced Persons, Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal Matters, and Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal and Commercial Matters, which includes the recovery and repatriation of stolen wealth.”

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign and Domestic Debts, Senator Shehu Sani said over $200 billion had been hidden in UAE.

He said: “Over $200 billion are stashed away from Nigeria to Dubai alone. This may be the monies stolen since in the past 20 years. I am not talking about estates and bonds and other securities bought with Nigeria stolen money.”

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