International auctioneers are to sell the $40 million (about N14.4 billion) jewellery recovered from former Petroleum Resources Minister Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) hinted on Thursday.
The agency’s Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, said auctioneers would also sell off the luxury houses recovered from the former minister and other fraud suspects. According to Magu, the presence of ‘internationally certified’ auctioneers would make the process transparent.
The anti-graft chair spoke at the commission’s Lagos Office during an EFCC stakeholders’ conference on crusade against cybercrime fraudsters. Besides the jewellery and the luxury houses, Magu said that 242 trailers and tankers recovered from internet scammers will also be auctioned off. The vehicles are in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital.
The acting chairman took reporters on a tour of the two EFCC facilities in Ikoyi where nearly 100 other vehicles recovered from scammers, including buses and luxury cars, lay idle. Magu suggested that the current auctioning process often results in forfeited items being sold at ridiculously low prices.
He said this was unacceptable because many of the items were in good condition and should have fetched higher prices for victims of the scams.
On September 10, a Federal High Court in Lagos permanently forfeited Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s jewellery to the Federal Government. The jewellery, categorized into 33 sets, include “419 expensive bangles; 315 expensive rings; 304 expensive earrings; 267 expensive necklaces; 189 expensive wristwatches and 174 expensive necklaces and earrings.” The rest are: 78 expensive bracelets, 77 expensive brooches and 74 expensive pendants.
The ex-minister, who is suspected of involvement in a $2.4 billion fraud, has also lost many luxury properties to the government via court judgments.
Magu said: “We want to make sure that there’s transparency in the process. Like what we’re doing now in Port Harcourt. There are about 242 trailers and tankers that we are about auctioning. In fact, in the next two weeks, we will auction them. We will advertise, you will see it very clearly.”
He said the vehicles had been valued by professionals and they had set reasonable prices. He added: “We have so many vehicles that have been finally forfeited to the government and we have received the nod to go and sell them.
“I want us to involve everybody…we have to involve the courts, the Federal Ministry of Justice, Department of Petroleum Resources and maybe the army, in whose premises these things are kept. We have to be very transparent…
“Even the houses, there are auctioneers coming from outside the country who are internationally acclaimed and accredited auctioneers. For instance, the jewellery we recovered from Diezani, we need to bring in international auctioneers because these are things that are bought from abroad. We’ll get in touch with the manufacturers, with people who are in charge of these things.”
Magu expressed hope that the items, being second hand, would fetch at least 40 per cent of their cost value.
Magu also disclosed that mothers of suspected internet scammers, popularly known as ‘Yahoo Boys’, are now organizing themselves into an association. He said such parents often justified their children’s activities by arguing that they were supporting their families “in the place of irresponsible, runaway or dead fathers”.
Magu said the EFCC’s interest was not just to arrest the ‘Yahoo Boys’ but also to see to their rehabilitation. He said: “We are looking at how we can rehabilitate the Yahoo Boys; these are young boys, who have graduated, who are in the university. We want to see how we can sensitise them; how we can make them know that the Yahoo Yahoo business is wrong.
“And we are also appealing to their mothers. The parents of these children, they have actually formed an association of Yahoo Yahoo Mothers’ Association – Yes; they are there – Association of Mothers of Yahoo Yahoo Boys.
“Some of them will say the father did not do anything; these boys came, demolished the house and put up a new structure. If you see the cars that we have recovered, you will think that we are in car business. These are all Yahoo Yahoo. All brands of cars – Jaguar, Rolls Royce.
“We want to correct them (Yahoo boys) so they can go back as responsible citizens; people who can be very useful; the knowledge can be utilised; we can bring back the knowledge and make it more be useful.
“We are prepared and we are not shying away from arresting and arraigning them, but we are thinking that we should find a way to manage them so that they can be useful citizens. These are very intelligent boys; we can use their intellect for positive purposes for this country.”
Magu also said the recent arrest of a social media celebrity, Ismaila Mustapha, popularly known as Mompha; and his Lebanese collaborator, Hamza Koudeih, for their alleged involvement in internet-related fraud and money laundering remains a landmark achievement of the EFCC.
He disclosed that more arrests of “high-value targets” had been made, but could not be made public yet.
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