Nearly half a dozen suspects, including the former Minister of Petroleum Resources of Nigeria, were swept up by UK authorities in a crackdown on corruption coordinated with Nigerian President Muhammed Buhari.
According to multiple media accounts, Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) obtained a court order to seize 27,000 pounds ($41,000) from the London apartment of Diezani Alison-Madueke, the former Nigerian oil minister, long linked to financial scandals.
Ms. Alison-Madueke was scheduled to appear in court on Friday, where bail was granted. That same day, her “palatial home” in the Asokoro district of Abuja was sealed in an operation led by the anti-theft Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, according to Nigerian media reports.
If found guilty of money laundering and bribery, she could face up to 14 years in jail.
Alison-Madueke served as oil minister from 2010 until May 2015 under former president Goodluck Jonathan. She was also the first woman to head OPEC as alternate president from 2014-2015.
The arrests by the NCA’s International Corruption Unit (ICU), are part of an investigation into economic crimes at the ministry. A spokesman for Nigeria’s presidency, Garba Shehu, said: “The government of Nigeria is collaborating with the UK authority in the investigations and her trial.”
The ICU is specifically empowered to trace and recover the proceeds of international corruption. In the case of Nigeria, it is claimed that between 20 and 50 billion Nigerian dollars disappeared during former president Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
Former Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi highlighted the disappearance of billions of petrodollars a year ago in a 300 page report of extensive documentation, for which he was fired.
Before being stripped of his post, Mr. Sanusi described what he called “leakages” of cash from Nigeria’s oil industry. Oil accounts for around 95 percent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings. If Nigeria continued to leak cash at the rate described in his report, the consequences for the economy would be disastrous, he said.
According to Mr. Sanusi, between $10.8 billion and $20 billion out of $67 billion worth of oil sales by the state oil company in the previous 19 months was unaccounted for.
The state oil group has denied any wrongdoing.
The crackdown comes as the U.S. government scrutinizes the former Nigerian oil minister and her associates, according to the Wall Street Journal’s reporter Drew Hinshaw. The State Department, he said, has been looking at whether she or her relatives benefited from her position and whether to ban her from entering the U.S. where she is said to have several homes.
Shehu, speaking for President Buhari, said: (The President) thinks there should be a worldwide movement to help countries such as Nigeria to get back what has been looted from them.”