20th October 2015
First Arrests by the International Corruption Unit
On October 2nd 2015 the International Corruption Unit arrested five people in London for suspected bribery and money laundering offences. Although the identities of those arrested was not initially confirmed by the NCA, online news agencies in Nigeria soon reported that the individuals detained were the immediate past Nigerian Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke and associates. This information was subsequently confirmed by Nigerian officials.
Mrs Alison-Madueke had been Petroleum Minister under the regime of former President Goodluck Jonathon who was replaced by Muhammadu Buhari earlier this year.
All five detained individuals were given conditional bail pending further investigations. Later, Westminster Magistrates Court granted the NCA permission to retain some £27,000 in cash seized during the arrests for six months.
The investigation is said to have begun in 2013 under the auspices of the Proceeds of Crime Act but was been transferred to the NCA earlier this year, presumably when the ICU was set up. The details of the allegations under investigation are scarce at this stage but are likely to relate to corruption in Nigeria during the time of her ministry. For example, it was alleged in February 2014 by Lamido Sanusi, the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation NNPC had failed to remit some $20 billion in revenue to the Central Bank. Mr Sanusi was removed from office shortly after making the allegation amid accusations of financial impropriety on his part, although it seems this may well have been an act of revenge by President Jonathon for the trouble Sanusi had caused by acting as a whistle blower.
The arrests undoubtedly represent a continuation of the development of the UK’s capability to investigate and prosecute overseas corruption and bribery. If any doubts existed about the powers of the ICU, this development surely lays them to rest.