The coast is clear for the Federal Government to seize assets of 22 politically exposed people and businessman in Dubai, following the signing of a pact with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Thursday.
All the 22 former political leaders and businessmen, are currently being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
According to The Nation, the ratification of the six agreements between the two countries delayed the seizure of the assets.
Those under investigation include: seven former Governors, seven ex-Ministers, four businessmen, a former chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a former Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service, a former presidential assistant indicted in the $2.1billion arms deals and a former First Lady who allegedly used fronts to acquire some choice properties.
“With the signing of the agreements, a major hurdle has been cleared and this will enable us to proceed with the application for the seizure of the assets of more than 22 highly-placed Nigerians who have been under probe for alleged money laundering.
“Before the pact, the UAE law mandates any foreign anti-graft agency to seek the consent of the owner of any property being verified before you can have access to same. But now, the anti-graft agencies in Nigeria can send a list of suspected assets to the UAE authorities through the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Mutual Legal Assistance will be invoked.
“Our task is made easier because the Land Registry System is digitalised in a manner that it will not take five minutes to obtain information on anyone suspected of money laundering.
“The onus is on us to present sufficient facts on why some of these assets should be seized. We will show evidence of corrupt practices, the laundering of public funds and the purchase of the suspected assets with looted funds,” a source, who pleaded not to be named, said.
Responding to a question, the source added: “The EFCC has secured Mareva Injunction to freeze some foreign accounts and seize some assets linked with some of these highly placed Nigerians in some jurisdictions.”
Some of the off-shore financial institutions, where accounts are frozen, include BNP Paribas (Switzerland), LGT Bank (Switzerland), Standard Chartered Bank (London),Barclays Bank (London), Standard Energy (Voduz, Switzerland), HSBC (London), Corner Bank (Lugano, Switzerland) and Deutsche Bank (Geneva).
According to the source, “with the indictment of a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, by the US Department of Justice and her two alleged business associates, seizing their assets will be easier”.
The former Governors include one from the South South, two from North Central, two from the North East, one from the North West and one from the South West.
“We also have the case of a former-governor who failed in his bid to transfer about $517million loot to Dominican Republic from the UAE. We will want to seize the cash,” the official said.
Sections 7 of 28 and 34 of the EFCC (Establishment Act) 2004 and Section 13(1) of the Federal High Court Act, 2004 mandate the agency to seize suspicious assets.
Section 7 says: “The commission has power to (a) cause any investigations to be conducted as to whether any person, corporate body or organisation has committed any offence under this Act or other law relating to economic and financial crimes.
“(b) Cause investigations to be conducted into the properties of any person if it appears to the commission that the person’s lifestyle and extent of the properties are not justified by his source of income.”