The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has declared billionaire businessman and Managing Director of Aiteo Group, Mr. Benedict Peters, wanted for his alleged role in the $115m (N23bn) bribe given to officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, during the build-up to the 2015 election.
The EFCC said in an official gazette signed by its spokesman, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, that Peters was wanted for criminal conspiracy, diversion of funds and money laundering.
The notice read in part, “Dark-complexioned Peters is wanted in connection with a case of criminal conspiracy , diversion of funds and money laundering. He hails from Abakaliki Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. His last known address is 8B Agodogba Avenue, Parkview Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos.”
Peters is alleged to have given Diezani about $60m during the build-up to the 2015 presidential election.
The EFCC had alleged that the MD of Fidelity Bank Plc, Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo, helped Diezani convert $115m to N23bn after which it was disbursed to INEC officials.
Some of the money was said to have emanated from some oil companies including Northern Belt Gas Company Limited which allegedly gave $60m to Fidelity Bank on behalf of Diezani.
An EFCC source said that Peters was the person behind Northern Belt Gas Company Limited.
The source said, “We have launched investigations into the companies that gave Diezani money in form of kickbacks. About $60m came from Northern Belt Gas Company Limited. We have not been able to ascertain the directors of the company. However, we found out that Mr. Benedict Peters is the sole signatory to the account at Fidelity Bank.
“All attempts to get him have proved abortive. We currently do not know where he is and he is hardly ever in one place because he has a private jet.”
The oil magnate, who owns oil facilities in several countries, is said to own tank farms in Lagos and Port Harcourt. Under former President Goodluck Jonathan, Peters acquired an 85-per cent stake in block OML 29 from Shell Gas Company for $2.56bn. OML 29 potentially holds up to 2.2 billion barrels of oil and about 300 million standard cubic feet of gas.
He was also alleged to have taken part in the controversial crude oil swap deal involving the exchange of crude oil for refined petroleum products in which the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation gave out 445,000 barrels of crude per day to nine companies through the Pipelines Product Marketing Company, a subsidiary of the NNPC.
However, Peters had in an advertorial May 8, 2016, denied the allegations levelled against him.
The statement read in part, “In order to put the facts clearly and correctly in the public domain, both AIETO Group and Mr. Peter would like to state categorically that Mr. Peters has not been officially invited by the EFCC on this matter.
“As a law-abiding citizen and a significant participant in Nigeria’s key oil and gas sector and an accomplished global businessman with significant interests in different parts of the world, Mr. Benedict Peters will upon receipt of an official invitation from the EFCC, cooperate with such relevant authorities.
“Mr. Peters who is currently out of the country will certainly attend to an invitation from the EFCC upon return to Nigeria.”