By Temitope Stephen
A Federal High Court , Lagos presided over by Justice Muslim Sule Hassan on Tuesday, ordered the final forfeiture of the sums of $43, 449, 947 million USD; £27, 800.000 British Pound Sterling (BPS), and N23, 218 million, found in Flat 7b, of No 17, Osborn Road, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Justice Hassan made the order of final forfeiture of the said money while granting an application filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), seeking the granting of such order.
Prior to granting the order of final forfeiture, Justice Hassan had dismissed an application filed by a lawyer, Olukoya Ogungbeje, seeking a stay of proceedings on the EFCC’s application.
Ogungbeje had urged the court not to grant the EFCC’s application for final forfeiture, pending when the anti-graft agency was able to prove who was the real owner of the money.
He had also urged the court for an order of stay of execution on the earlier order by EFCC pending when the Committee headed by the Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, inaugurated by the Federal government had concluded its investigation and submitted report on whom the real owner of the money was to the Federal government.
Responding to the application, EFCC through its lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, had urged the court to discountenance Ogungbeje’s application on the ground that the applicant was not an interested party but ‘meddlesome Interloper’ and a busy body’.
Oyedepo told the court that the paragraph five to seven of affidavit in support of the applicant’s motion on Notice did not comply with the Section 17 of the EFCC Act.
Dismissing Ogungbeje’s application, the court said: “the applicant has no pending Appeal before the court. And the position of the applicant who is not an interested party in the suit is not known to law, in fact, he is a meddlesome Interloper.
“In view of the above, the applicant’s application is hereby dismissed for lacking in merit and substance”.
After dismissing Ogungbeje’s application, the judge proceeded to deliver its judgment in the EFCC’s application seeking final forfeiture of the money.
In making an order of final forfeiture of the sum of43, 449, 947 million USD; £27, 800.000 British Pound Sterling (BPS), and N23, 218 million, found in Flat 7b, of No 17, Osborn Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, Justice Hassan said he was in complete agreement with the anti-graft agency on the property sought to be forfeited to the Federal government of Nigeria, having fully complied with the section 17 of Advance Fee fraud.
The judge also said he was in total agreement with the affidavit in support of the application for the final forfeiture of the money deposed to by an operative of the Commission.
Consequently, the judge pronounced that the sum of 43, 449, 947 million USD; £27, 800.000 British Pound Sterling (BPS), and N23, 218 million, found in Flat 7b, of No 17, Osborn Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, which source was reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities be forfeited to the federal government of Nigeria.
The EFCC had earlier approached the court for final order forfeiture of the money as nobody had come forward to show interest in it.
In seeking for final forfeiture of the money, EFCC counsel, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, while moving the motion for final forfeiture of the money, said the anti-graft agency, apart from filing the motion for final forfeiture, had also filed an 11 paragraphs affidavit in support of the motion, and exhibited three exhibits.
The commission said in coming forward to seek the order for final forfeiture, it had complied with the court directives as contained in the earlier order of interim forfeiture granted by the court by publishing the order in a national daily newspaper.
The anti-graft agency said it did not only publish the order of interim forfeiture, but went further to serve the motion and order on the owner of the property where the money in question was found.
It would be recalled that the court presided over by Justice Muslim Hassan had earlier granted an order of interim forfeiture which he ordered must be published in a national daily newspaper and goven anybody interested in the money 14 days to come farward anf show caurse why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The EFCC stated that so far, nobody has come farward to show interest on the huge money found in flat 7, Osborn Tower, Ikoyi Lagos.
To fortify its case for order of permanent forfeiture, EFCC lawyer said the commission attached three exhibits to the motion and that the three exhibits were the results of the commission’s investigation into the matter.
He said the first exhibit EFCC 1, is a receipt of payment by a company called Choba Ventures Limited issued by another company Fine & Country Limited for the purchase of flat 7, Osborn Tower, Ikoyi , Lagos where the money was discovered.
Oyedepo said exhibit EFCC 2 is a Deed of Assignment between Union Bank of Nigeria plc and a company, Chobe Ventures Limited while the third exhibit is a publication of the order of the court .
He told the court that the anti-graft agency’s finding in the course of investigation leaves no one in doubt that flat 7, Osborn Road, Ikoyi, was purchased by Choba Ventures Limited, and that the company’s directors are one Mrs. Ayodele Folashade Oke and her son.
It further stated that the property flat 7 Osborn Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, was bought at the cost of $1 ,658m and paid for in cash by Mrs Ayodele Folashade Oke a director of Choba Ventures with the cash given to another company called Salla Petroleum and Gss Limited who turn out to be a buresu de change company who converted the money to naira equivalent on behalf of Folashade Oke.
The commission said Sula Petroleum and Gas Limited, then credited the account of Fine and Country with the Naira equivalent With Fine and Country acknowledging receipt of the money on 27th and 28th of August as well as 2nd and 3rd of September 2015 with a naira equivalent of N360 million.
“Upon the payment a Deed of Assignment was then executed between Union Bank of Nigeria (UBN), and Choba Ventures Limited.
Oyedepo therefore urged the court to hold that commission’s submission that the house and the money found in it were reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful act and that in view of the fact that no one had come forward to lay claim to the money within the 14 days given by the court otherwise the $43, 449, 947.00 , £27,800.00 and N23,218,000.00 found in flat 7,Osborn, Ikoyi Lagos should be forfeited to the Federal Government.