The operation, conducted last week, also led to the recovery of over 50 luxury watches, including at least two Rolex varieties, from the former military commander, according to anti-graft officials familiar with the matter.
A source said the ICPC was tipped off about the cash haul by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU, during a probe of a man identified only as Salisu.
“NFIU discovered that N500 million was paid into Salisu’s account at once and quickly flagged it,” an ICPC source said. “When Salisu was queried he said he was a military contractor, but he was unable to show any evidence of carrying out any contract for the military.”
Subsequently, our sources said, the NFIU transferred the matter to ICPC, which deployed its operatives to conduct additional investigations.
A spokesman for the NFIU did not immediately answer calls seeking comments about the agency’s role in the operation.
The raid was first reported on Thursday night by Sahara Reporters, which estimated the recovered funds at about N1.85 billion.
It was during the ICPC probe that a raid on Mr Salisu’s place led to the recovery of “hundreds of millions of naira, all in new notes,” our source added.
The property in Abuja was thereafter linked to Mr Buratai, who quickly left his diplomatic base in the Benin Republic to resolve the matter, which then led to the release of Salisu.
Detectives are investigating the case as potentially tied to federal arms procurement earmarks.
“We discovered that the place is owned by Buratai and he has been working with the man to loot military funds for many years,” one of our sources added. “It is unfortunate that Nigerian soldiers are suffering at the war front due to lack of equipment.”
A spokesman for the ICPC did not return a request for comment Thursday night.
Mr Buratai, Nigerian ambassador to the Benin Republic, told The Gazette the anti-graft office had no warrant to search his property.
“Nobody obtained any warrants to search my place,” Mr Buratai said by telephone. He abruptly disconnected the call when asked whether or not he was confirming the raid and cash recovery from his property — and did not answer subsequent attempts.
The recovery marked the latest in regular cash recoveries from government officials under President Muhammadu Buhari, who cruised to office in 2015 repeating his anti-corruption credentials.