Former Nigeria oil minister charged with money laundering

Former Nigeria oil minister charged with money laundering

Lagos (Reuters): Former Nigerian oil minister Diezani Alison-Madueke, who held the post for five years between 2010-15, has been charged with money laundering, the country's financial crimes agency said.

Three members of the National Electoral Commission (INEC) "allegedly received bribes" from the minister ahead of the 2015 general election, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said in a statement.

One charge read at the Federal High Court in Lagos stated that Alison-Madueke and the officials "conspired among yourselves to directly take possession of 264.9 million naira ($867,813)" on or about March 27, 2015, contrary to money laundering laws. The former petroleum minister, who served during the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan, was not in court to enter a plea.

Alison-Madueke - who was briefly arrested in London in October 2015, although no charges were brought - has previously denied to Reuters any wrongdoing when questioned about missing public funds and corruption allegations.

Jonathan lost the 2015 presidential election to Muhammadu Buhari, who had campaigned on a ticket to fix the economy of a country where 70 percent of the 180 million people live on less than $2 a day despite the OPEC member's vast energy wealth. The financial crimes agency has been investigating allegations of illegal transactions in the run-up to the 2015 election for more than a year.

The EFCC said one of the INEC officials, Christian Nwosu, pleaded guilty to receiving 30 million naira. The two others pleaded not guilty to money laundering offences. The prosecution lawyer said Nwosu had entered into a plea bargain agreement. He also said he had purchased properties with the 30 million naira.