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Nigeria’s antigraft body EFCC to team up with UK prosecutors in ex-minister Diezani’s $2.5bn fraud case

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There were indications over the weekend that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) intends to collaborate with UK prosecutors as an interested party in the trial of former Petroleum Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke in a UK court.

According to the Nation, a delegation from the anti-graft commission is due in London to start the process by filing essential documents.

According to a source familiar with the situation, the EFCC aims to share its findings, as well as the Abuja High Court’s forfeiture decision involving Diezani’s $2.5 million homes and vehicles, with the UK court.

“This country may not be able to retrieve questionable assets from Diezani if the EFCC does not apply to an interested party. We have received an advisory on this important bend to Diezani’s trial and we will be part of the case in the UK. A team will leave for London any moment from now to explore legal opportunities and file necessary papers as an interested party.

“The overall aim is for Nigeria to benefit from Diezani’s trial, especially the recovery of all assets linked to funds looted in this country. The EFCC has sufficient evidence against Diezani, including a court order on the former minister’s $2.5 million homes and cars.

“In another case, a former chairman of EFCC confirmed that the commission recovered $153 million and secured the final forfeiture of over 80 properties in Nigeria valued at about $ 80 million. The allegations against Diezani by the EFCC border on the alleged stealing of about  $2.5 billion from Nigeria’s coffers as a minister.” the source said.

The source continued, “This nation must rise to the occasion because, in March 2023, the NCA also provided evidence to the US Department of Justice that enabled them to recover assets totalling $53.1 million linked to Mrs Alison-Madueke’s alleged corruption.

“Like the P&ID case, the EFCC has sufficient evidence to pull through a case against Diezani. We want all stolen, diverted and questionable assets back in the custody of Nigeria for the good use of our citizens. I think the EFCC is collaborating with the NCA in the UK on this.

“It is also unclear if the UK court will ask Diezani to return to Nigeria to serve prison terms if convicted. This is why we also need to be an interested party in the case in the UK.”

Diezani is currently on trial in the UK’s Southwark Crown Court for an alleged £100,000 bribe. The National Crime Agency claimed Diezani could have received at least £100,000 in benefits, including cash, chauffeured cars, private jet flights, luxurious family trips, and several London apartments.

On October 2, 2023, a Magistrate Court granted the former Minister £70,000 bail, citing her potential flight risk. The trial in Diezani’s case is set to begin in November 2025. In October 2023, Lateef Fagbemi, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice requested the immediate extradition of Diezani Allison-Madueke, former Minister of Petroleum, from the United Kingdom.

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Nigeria: Court insists Binance executive can face trial on behalf of firm

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In an ongoing tax evasion case, a Nigerian court decided on Friday that Binance executive, Tigran Gambaryan, may go to trial on the cryptocurrency exchange’s behalf.

Binance and executives Gambaryan, a U.S. citizen and head of financial crimes compliance, and British-Kenyan national Nadeem Anjarwalla, a regional manager for Africa, face four counts of tax evasion. They are also accused of participating in specialized financial transactions without a license and laundering more than $35 million in another case.

All of them have entered not-guilty pleas on the allegations of money laundering. Following the court hearing on Friday, Binance’s attorney chose not to comment. The attorney for Gambaryan was similarly silent.

“We are deeply disappointed that Tigran Gambaryan, who has no decision-making power in the company, continues to be detained,” a Binance spokesperson said in a statement on Friday after the court hearing.

“These charges against him are completely meritless. He should be freed while discussions continue between Binance and Nigerian government officials.”

Gambaryan is still being held while Anjarwalla left the nation in March. The office of Nigeria’s security adviser has declared that it is collaborating with Interpol to pursue Anjarwalla’s detention.

After its executives were imprisoned as part of a crackdown on cryptocurrencies in February after being invited to the African nation for talks with officials, the CEO of Binance has warned Nigeria of establishing a dangerous precedent.

Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has announced that Gambaryan may face prosecution on behalf of the exchange; Binance has not been accused in the tax evasion case.

According to prior statements from Gambaryan’s attorney, Gambaryan was “neither a director, partner, nor company secretary” and did not have any formal authorization from Binance to take on the accusations on the firm’s behalf.

Judge Emeka Nwite decided on Friday that Gambaryan, who is Binance’s chief financial compliance officer and was lawfully designated to represent the company in a meeting in Nigeria, should be served with the charges against Binance.

On Wednesday, Gambaryan is scheduled to appear in court and enter a plea on Binance’s behalf. On Friday, Gambaryan’s request for bail in the money laundering case was turned down. As the nation struggled with ongoing dollar shortages, cryptocurrency websites became the go-to venues for trading the Nigerian naira. Nigeria has blamed Binance for its currency problems.

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Nigerian govt denies reports it plans to borrow pension fund for infrastructure

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The Nigerian government has denied reports that it plans to borrow the N20tn pension fund to finance infrastructural projects.

In a statement made in Abuja, Wale Edun, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, stated that the government would abide by the laws and guidelines in place pertaining to the pension fund.

Following a two-day Federal Executive Council meeting at the Presidential Villa on Tuesday, the minister reportedly informed reporters that the government would present a plan to use local funds, including the fund, to finance infrastructure development.

Edunstated that the government does not intend to exceed these legal boundaries, emphasising that the government was committed to protecting workers’ pensions.

“It has come to my notice that stories are making the round that the Federal Government plans to illegally access the hard-earned savings and pension contributions of workers. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

“The pension industry, like most the financial industries, is highly regulated. There are rules. There are limitations about what pension money can be invested in and what it cannot be invested in.

“The Federal Government has no intention whatsoever to go beyond those limitations and go outside those bounds which are there to safeguard the pensions of workers.

“What was announced to the Federal Executive Council was that there was an ongoing initiative drawing in all the major stakeholders in the long-term saving industry, those that handle funds that are available over a long period to see how, within the regulations and the laws; these funds could be used maximally to drive investment in key growth areas,” Edun clarified.

The plan to spend the pension fund was reported and was widely criticised. The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria and the Nigeria Labour Congress had earlier on Thursday urged the government to abstain from making any changes to the pension fund.

They stated, “Nigerian workers have entrusted their hard-earned savings for retirement security, not as a means for government projects. It is imperative to halt any further plans to tap into these funds, especially given the lack of transparency and accountability in past government borrowing practices.”

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