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UK crime agency authorised to seize cash from Nigeria ex-oil minister - court

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) obtained court permission on Monday to temporarily seize 27,000 pounds from a former Nigerian oil minister embroiled in a financial scandal, a court official in London said.

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Nigerian authorities confirmed the arrest in London of Diezani Alison-Madueke, who served as oil minister from 2010 until May 2015 under former president Goodluck Jonathan. Nigerian media said she had been granted bail.

Reuters has been unable to reach Alison-Madueke’s personal assistant or a lawyer representing her. She has previously denied to Reuters any wrongdoing when questioned about missing public funds and graft allegations.

An administrative officer at Westminster Magistrates’ Court said on Monday the NCA had applied to the court for an order to seize various sums of money in relation to Alison-Madueke and two other women for up to six months.

The administrative officer did not provide any information on the link between the three women.

Contacted by Reuters, the NCA declined any comment on the case. On Friday, it issued a short statement saying its International Corruption Unit had arrested five people in London as part of an inquiry into suspected bribery and money laundering offences.

The NCA did not name those arrested but said all five had been released on conditional police bail, pending further investigations in Britain and overseas. It said the investigation had started in 2013.

Confirming Alision-Madueke’s arrest, a spokesman for Nigeria’s presidency, Garba Shehu, said late on Sunday: “The government of Nigeria is collaborating with the UK authority in the investigations and her trial.”

He declined to provide details on the charges against her.

Alison-Madueke left office in March after Jonathan was defeated by Muhammadu Buhari. President Buhari has promised to root out corruption in Africa’s biggest economy, where few benefit from Nigeria’s vast oil resources.

Ordinary Nigerians, tired of seeing no narrowing of the West African country’s wealth gap, have been eagerly waiting to see the results of probes into the oil sector.

Reporting by Estelle Shirbon in London and Julia Payne in Abuja; Editing by Gareth Jones