N23bn Diezani Bribery Scandal: EFCC Detains Oil Baron, Places Others On Watch List
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday grilled and detained an oil chief, Leno Olaitan Adesanya, in connection with the ongoing probe of the bribe given to some officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Adesanya allegedly contributed $1.85million to the bribe sum of $115million.
The commission has, however, watch-listed others at airports, seaports and border posts because they have not responded to the commission’s invitation.
But the EFCC was still keeping in custody the Managing Director of Fidelity Bank Plc, Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo, and the bank’s Head of Operations, Martin Izuogbe, as at press time.
According to investigation, Adesanya reported at the EFCC office in Lagos for interrogation and was subsequently detained.
It was learnt that he was grilled for about six hours yesterday.
A top source, who spoke in confidence, said: “So far, we have questioned more than 30 people nationwide in connection with the N23, 299,705,000billion bribery scandal. But in Lagos, we have the big ones in custody who are helping the ongoing investigation.
“As I speak with you, we are still keeping the Managing Director of Fidelity Bank Plc, Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo, and the bank’s Head of Operations, Martin Izuogbe. They were central to the disbursement of the bribe cash of $115million received from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.
“One of the oil chiefs, Leno Olaitan Adesanya, reported for questioning and he has been detained. Our investigators have asked him to explain how he came about the $1.85million; how they struck a deal with Diezani and what led to the donation of the sum for poll bribery.
“So far, Adesanya has been responding to all isolated questions. His response will determine whether he will be granted administrative bail or not.”
The source, however, said the owners of the other oil firms have been summoned too by the EFCC.
Those implicated in the $115million bribery scam and the funds given to Diezani by the companies were: Northern Belt Gas Company Limited—($60m); Auctus Integrated ($17, 884,000); Midwestern Oil and Gas ($9.5m);Leno Olaitan Adesanya ($1.85m).
But the source said there were strong signals that these oil chiefs have been placed on the watch-list of INTERPOL and other security agencies because they are unwilling to honour the EFCC’s invitation.
The source added: “We have watch-listed these adamant oil chiefs at airports, seaports and border posts and ask other security agencies, including INTERPOL, to help fish out these people wherever they are.”
Findings revealed that the investigation might get messier in the next few days because most of the oil chiefs have denied giving money to Diezani and Fidelity Bank Plc.
One of the oil chiefs allegedly told his associates that “I do not know how Fidelity Bank came about the breakdown of the $115million, but I didn’t make any funds available to either Diezani or the bank.”
The EFCC source said: “Whoever has evidence contrary to our preliminary findings and the records of the bank should report to this commission and tell his story.
“We are waiting for them. They should not be afraid of coming to our office, if they committed no infraction.
“All these oil firms are being investigated for allegedly violating the Money Laundering Act.”
On the fate of Diezani in the ongoing probe, the source added: “We will send all findings at our disposal and relevant documents to the National Crime Agency (NCA) in the UK.
“The fact that some of the beneficiaries have started refunding part of the $115million bribe sum has made our job easier. We will make this evidence available to the appropriate agency in the UK.
“All these documents will help in the investigation and trial of Diezani.”
Meanwhile, the EFCC has started analyzing Panama Papers on highly-placed Nigerians implicated in running secret offshore companies.
Those who may face fresh investigation at home over the allegations are President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki; ex-President of the Senate, Chief David Mark; Saraki’s wife; ex-Governor James Ibori; Laolu Saraki; Obi Asika and Olufela Ibidapo, among others.
The anti-graft agency said it had started working with the FBI and National Crime Agency ( NCA ) in the UK on the extent of the involvement of these Nigerians.
Some of those named in the secret offshore deals, including the Sarakis and Mark, have denied the claims.
A top EFCC source said: “We are working on and analyzing the information in Panama Papers. We cannot allow this kind of impunity to go on.
“ We are working with the FBI and NCA and almost all the foreign law enforcement agencies will get to the roots of these Panama Papers.
“Do not forget that the files belonging to the Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, were products of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).”