A federal judge in Lagos yesterday ruled the sum of $153 million (N34 billion) linked to a former Petroleum Minister Mrs Diezani Allison-Madueke be forfeited to the Federal Government.
Justice Muslim Sule Hassan of Federal High Court ruled in favour of the anti-graft agency, the EFCC, which last month filed a forfeiture request.
It alleged that the money was diverted from the coffers of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) by the former petroleum minister.
The anti-graft commission first filed an ex-parte application for forfeiture but Justice Hassan on January 6 only issued an interim order.
The money, which was in different currencies, was stashed in three banks.
The judge issued a 14-day ultimatum to any interested party to appear before it and prove the legitimacy of the monies.
Several bank executives were involved but only one of them filed an application to claim N9.8 billion of the said money.
He had urged the court to order a refund of the said money on the grounds that it was obtained by coercion.
But EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, had urged the court to make the interim order absolute and order a final forfeiture of the sums to the federal government.
He had also urged the court to order the forfeiture of other sums to which no claim had been made.
Oyedepo submitted that section 17 of the Advanced Fee Fraud and other related offence Act makes a property which is reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime, forfeitable to the FG.
He argued that paragraph 4 of the applicant’s reply affidavit shows a meeting of the minds of some staffs of NNPC as well as the respondent to launder funds.
“My lord, paragraph 4 of our reply affidavit shows a meeting of the minds of one Gbenga Komolafe, former group MD, Crude Oil Marketing ivision of NNPC, Prince Haruna Momoh, former group MD Petroleum Product Marketing Company, Umar Farouk Ahmed, group MD Nigerian Product Marketing Company as well as Dauda Lawal, to launder funds on behalf of former petroleum minister, Diezani Allison Madueke,” Oyedepo added.
Delivering his judgment yesterday, Justice Hassan ordered a final forfeiture of the unclaimed sum of N23, 426,300.00 and $5 million to the Federal Government.
He also ordered the final forfeiture of the N9.8 billion the second defendants claimed belong to him.
“I have carefully examined the affidavit evidence before the court and I find that the second respondent was duly cautioned in English language before his statement was taken and so, I hold that same was taken without any evidence of inducement.
“On the whole I am satisfied that all the conditions stated in section 17 of the Advanced Fee Fraud and other Related offence Act, was duly fulfilled by the applicant(EFCC),” the judge held.
“I hereby make an order pursuant to section 17 of the Advanced fee fraud and other fraud related offences Act 2016, for final forfeiture of the unclaimed sum of N23,426,300.000.00 billion and 5 million united states dollars to the Federal government finally.”
There are more than 15 applications for forfeiture filed by the EFCC in several courts.
Credit: All Africa