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Bribery: Diezani arraigned in UK court

Former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, was on Monday arraigned before a United Kingdom court.

Diezani, who was charged with receiving bribes in the form of cash, luxury goods, flights on private jets and the use of high-end properties in Britain in return for awarding oil contracts, was arraigned at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

Reuters reported that during her appearance in court, she only spoke to give her name, date of birth and address.

Diezani was not asked to formally enter a plea, although her lawyer Mark Bowen told the court she would be pleading not guilty.

The charges against her, read out in court, all related to events alleged to have taken place in London.

Sixty-three-year-old Alison-Madueke was a key figure in the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

She served as petroleum minister from 2010 to 2015 and also acted as president of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

According to the prosecutor, Andy Young, she was alleged to have accepted a wide range of advantages in cash and in kind from people who wanted to receive or continue to receive the award of oil contracts worth billions of dollars in total.

Head of the National Crime Agency’s (NCA) International Corruption Unit, Andy Kelly, said, “We suspect Diezani Alison-Madueke abused her power in Nigeria and accepted financial rewards for awarding multi-million-pound contracts.

“These charges are a milestone in what has been a thorough and complex international investigation.”

NCA said Alison-Madueke was accused of benefitting from at least 100,000 pounds in cash, chauffeur driven cars, flights on private jets, luxury holidays for her family, and the use of multiple London properties.

Charges against her also detail financial rewards including furniture, renovation work and staff for the properties, payment of private school fees, and gifts from high-end designer shops such as Cartier jewellery and Louis Vuitton goods, the NCA said.

Since Diezani left office, she has been dogged by corruption allegations but denied the charges.

British police said she was currently living in St John’s Wood, an upmarket area of west London.

Diezani was first arrested in 2015, but underwent chemotherapy for breast cancer, according to her family.

At the time of her arrest, the NCA said only it had detained five people in London on suspicion of international corruption, without naming those held.

The NCA said that assets worth millions of pounds in relation to the case have been frozen as part of the investigation.

In March, the agency, which targets international and organised crime, provided evidence to the US Department of Justice allowing them to recover assets totalling $53.1 million linked to Alison-Madueke’s alleged corruption.

Diezani is expected to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on October 2.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had made many moves to extradite her but its request was blocked.

She is the second high-profile Nigerian politician to face prosecution in Britain in recent years, following James Ibori, a former state governor who was convicted of fraud and money-laundering in 2012 and received a 13-year jail sentence.

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