Ex-governor of Bayelsa state has been arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and interrogated in connection with fraud charges.
Timipre Sylva, who was governor until December 2011, was arrested Wednesday.
He “was found hiding in a dingy corner in the upper chamber of his expansive mansion,” in Abuja after his staff claimed he was out of town, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said in a statement.
Bayelsa, in the Niger Delta, is one of Nigeria’s three major oil producing states, generating much of the two million barrels of crude the country’s produces daily.
Several other past Niger Delta governors have been caught up in massive graft cases, including James Ibori of Delta state, currently serving a 13-year sentence in a British jail for money laundering.
“Sylva is being grilled in connection with fresh evidence linking him with a bouquet of fraudulent transactions that borders on money laundering,” the EFCC statement said.
“Part of the new evidence includes a number of eye-popping real estate acquisitions in Abuja.”
Nigeria’s oil industry, the largest in Africa, has for decades been plagued by gross corruption.
President Goodluck Jonathan, also a former Bayelsa governor, has vowed to clean up the sector but his performance so far has been fiercely criticised.
In March, he oversaw the executive pardon of Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, yet another ex-Bayelsa governor mired in corruption charges who pleaded guilty to money laundering in 2007 and served two years in prison.
The United States publicly criticised that pardon.
The EFCC’s track record in punishing powerful politicians has been mixed, with the commission boasting a series of high-profile arrests, but few convictions to match.
It scolded Sylva for failing to appear for questioning as promised on May 7.
“The Commission warns that it will not longer tolerate the antics of suspects who treat its invitation with levity,” the statement said.