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.
he 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.”
The anti-money laundering policy of UAE Central Bank reads in part: “Any person who commits, or attempts to commit, a Money Laundering offence shall be punished by imprisonment of up to 10 years and or a fine of between AED 100,000 and AED 500,000.
“In cases of multiple perpetrators, the Court subject to its discretion, may exempt a perpetrator from the imprisonment penalty if he takes the initiative and reports the crime to the competent authorities prior to the knowledge of such authorities and if his actions lead to the arrest of the other perpetrators or seizure of the laundered money.
“Any establishment that commits an offence of money laundering, financing of terrorism or financing of any unlawful organizations, shall be punished by a fine of AED 300,000 and AED 1,000,000.
“Failure to report a suspicious transaction shall be punishable by imprisonment and /or a fine of between AED 50,000 and AED 300,000.
“Tipping off a person being investigated regarding a suspicious transaction shall be punishable by imprisonment of up to one year and/ or a fine of between AED10,000 and AED 100,000.
“Violation of the requirements of Airport Declarations shall be punishable by imprisonment and or a fine.”