Towards the end of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, was appointed Commissioner for Trade and Investment by Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of Commonwealth of Dominica and was handed a diplomatic passport.
This, perhaps, is why Diezani has been able to evade prosecution despite being in London for over four years.
According to Qatar-based network, Al Jazeera, the former minister may have purchased a $2.2m choice property near the United Nations in upscale Manhattan, New York, for the Dominican Prime Minister in order to obtain the 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, 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.
The report stated, “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 53-minute documentary also shows how countries like St. Lucia, Antigua and Grenada all in the Caribbean carry out such “diplomatic passport for cash” scam.
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had in March lamented the slow pace at which the United Kingdom was handling Diezani’s case.
EFCC in a statement said it was baffling that after four years, Diezani had still not had her day in court.
The statement read in part, “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.
“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.
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.