Nigeria’s Former petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, has reportedly secured immunity from persecution by the Nigerian Government following her alleged citizenship and appointment as the Trade and Investment commissioner in Dominican Republic.
Diezani, who has been able to evade prosecution despite being in London for over four years, is wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in connection with an alleged N23.29billion poll bribery scam since 2015.
The EFCC also wants the ex-Minister to account for N47.2 billion; $487.5million; N23,446,300,000 and $5milion (about N1.5billion) in various Nigerian banks.
Top among her assets, either placed on permanent or temporary forfeiture, is the $37.5million Banana Island property. She is also expected to account for alleged spending of $6.9 million to buy three 40-feet mobile stages for use during mass public speaking events.
But despite judgment and rulings by some Nigerian courts, the EFCC is said to be facing a difficult task to extradite the ex-Minister since due to her citizenship of the Commonwealth of Dominica.
According to Al Jazeera, Diezani purchased a $2.2m choice property near the United Nations in upscale Manhattan, New York, for the Dominican Prime Minister in order to obtain their county’s passport.
In a documentary titled, ‘Diplomats for sale’, Al Jazeera reveals how politically exposed persons, including leaders of international drug cartels, purchase diplomatic passports from Caribbean countries for a fee which ranges between $250,000 and $2m depending on the personality involved.
The bribe is usually paid to the leader of that country who then appoints the buyer as an ambassador or a diplomat. The buyer is subsequently issued with a diplomatic passport which gives him or her immunity from prosecution based on the Vienna Convention of 1961.
According to the news agency, shortly before Diezani left office in 2015, there were already reports that she had allegedly stolen billions of dollars.
Worried that the incoming President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration might probe her, the former minister allegedly fled to London and obtained a diplomatic passport from the Prime Minister of Dominican Republic himself.
“In London, she (Diezani) is personally handed a Dominican diplomatic passport by Prime Minister Skerrit; a passport which could shield her from criminal charges. We found documents showing a few days later that a shell company is formed in Delaware, an American state where laws mean the true owners of a company are kept secret.
“Four months later, that shell company buys a New York apartment for $2.2m with no mortgage. Property records confirm that the prime minister’s wife, Melissa, was a resident. Photos placed the Skerrit family there. Both Diezani and Skerrit deny any links to the company that bought the apartment.
“Skerrit said the family resided there due to a kind gesture by an unnamed friend of his wife. He strongly denies any wrongdoing and says he didn’t demand or receive any money from Madueke,” the report partly reads.
Also, in a document obtained from the EFCC, Diezani who is still on trial for corruption back home in Nigeria, lobbied to become Trade and Investment Commissioner in the Dominican Republic.
She bagged a diplomatic passport from the island government to back up her appointment, meaning she has immunity from prosecution and arrest by any law enforcement agency including the Interpol.
“With the diplomatic passport, she is immune to arrest by any law enforcement agency, including the Interpol,” one EFCC operative who asked not to be named in this story, tells Pulse.
“Before leaving office on May 28, 2015, she had perfected a script with the office of the Prime Minister, Commonwealth of Dominica. She lobbied to be appointed as Trade and Investment Commissioner with effect from June 1, 2015.
“The lobby actually worked. In a letter dated May 29, 2015 and signed by Prime Minister Roosevelt Kerry, Diezani was offered not only the citizenship of Dominica, a Caribbean Island, but also an appointment as Trade and Investment Commissioner.
“A diplomatic passport issued on May 21, 2015, with an expiry date of May 20, 2020, came with the offer of appointment,” the document from the EFCC reads.
It adds that the passport contained 32 pages and in one of the pages, a restraining statement against arrest is made. The restraining order reads as follows:
“The President of the Commonwealth of Dominica requests and requires in the Name of the Government of Dominica all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance and afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary.”
In the appointment letter issued by Prime Minister Kerry, Diezani was tasked with “direct promotion and marketing of Dominica as a trade and investment domicile.”
It is believed in intelligence circles that Diezani now works for the Commonwealth of Dominica.
“She is strengthened by a diplomatic shield which no law enforcement agency around the world can ignore. Besides, her British citizenship is another protective hedge she has been using against repatriation to Nigeria, to answer overwhelming charges of corruption against her,” the document further states.
The EFCC had in a statement in March lamented the slow pace at which the United Kingdom was handling Diezani’s case, baffling that after four years, the former minister had still not had her day in court.
“We are intent on bringing Diezani to justice and despite the spirited efforts of the commission in ensuring that she returns to Nigeria and face trial, she has been held back in the UK by an investigation that has spanned almost four years without any signal about when she will be available in Nigeria for prosecution.
“The EFCC has been frustrated over Diezani, a development that prompted it to seek her extradition to Nigeria, so that she can have her day in court.”
The former minister is alleged to have diverted billions of dollars and purchased choice properties in several parts of the world.
Meanwhile, KanyiDaily had reported that Diezani’s cash and properties as well as those linked to her, worth over $250m, including jewellery, have been forfeited permanently to the Federal Government by an order of court.