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Feb 16, 5:19 PM EST

Nigeria court: Forfeit $110 million linked to oil minister



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Nigeria court: Forfeit $110 million linked to oil minister

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WARRI, Nigeria (AP) -- A Nigerian court handed the government more than $110 million seized from bank accounts linked to the former oil minister, declaring Thursday that it was looted from state coffers.

It's the first major victory for the anti-corruption Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, though the amount is negligible compared to the $20 billion in oil sales that allegedly went missing while Diezani Alison-Madueke was oil minister.

The commission alleges she stole the forfeited money from the state oil company.

Alison-Madueke has denied all allegations of corruption, from London where she fled soon after her party lost 2015 elections, in part because of massive corruption. Alison-Madueke has said she is in London to receive treatment for cancer.

She is the subject of a Scotland Yard investigation and has been briefly detained for questioning in London.

The commission also has seized a $37.5 million apartment block in Lagos, an $18 million mansion in Abuja, the capital, and is investigating properties in Britain and the United States allegedly bought by Alison-Madueke with stolen government funds.

Judge Muslim Hassan ordered Thursday's forfeiture after nobody showed up in court to prove the money was legitimate. It was held in local naira currency and U.S. dollars in three Nigerian banks.

The anti-corruption commission announced his ruling on social media and declared "the former minister is being prosecuted."

Hundreds of people have been detained and thousands investigated but the commission has yet to successfully prosecute one high-profile case.

In the biggest, security agents have illegally detained former national security adviser Sambo Dasuki since December 2015 on charges of misappropriating $2.1 billion meant to buy weapons to fight the Boko Haram Islamic uprising. Dasuki has said he acted on orders of former President Goodluck Jonathan, using the money to bribe party officials to ensure Jonathan won a presidential primary. Jonathan lost March 2015 elections to President Muhammadu Buhari, who promised to halt endemic corruption.

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Faul reported from Johannesburg.

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