Diezani Loot: As First Bank Challenges Forfeiture Order, EFCC Gives Reasons why Loot Be Forfeited

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Tuesday urged the Federal High Court in Lagos to order the forfeiture of N9.08bn allegedly laundered for former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke, to the Federal Government.
This followed the counter affidavit sworn to by the Executive Director, Public Sector Accountant, First Bank Plc, Dauda Lawal, challenging the temporary forfeiture order of a sum of $153m linked with a former Minster of Petroleum Resources with the bank.
Lawal, through his lawyer, Charles Adeogun, appeared before the Federal High Court in Lagos, seeking to take possession of $40m (N9.08bn), out of the temporarily forfeited $153m.
He claimed that though he received $25m out of the money for certain services he rendered, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission arrested him and forced him undertake to return $65m.
The anti-graft agency had subsequently taken possession of the $40m in draft and registered it as exhibit EFCC 03.
The EFCC had claimed that Diezani siphoned $153m out of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and stashed it in three banks in the country.
The anti-graft agency claimed that a former Managing Director of Fidelity Bank Plc, Nnamdi Okonkwo, who helped Diezani to take delivery of the money, kept $40m with Lawal in order to conceal the source.
It was further claimed by the EFCC that $113,310,000 out of the $153m was kept with the Executive Director, Commercial and Institutional Bank, Sterling Bank Plc, Lanre Adesanya; while $5m was kept with the MD of Access Bank Plc, Herbert Wigwe.
On January 6, the EFCC had approached Justice Muslim Hassan and obtained an interim order, directing that the funds be temporarily forfeited to the Federal Government.
Justice Muslim Hassan had ordered the temporary forfeiture of the money.
The court ordered the banks holding the money to supply proof that it was not stolen or risk losing it permanently to the federal government.
Only an Executive Director of First Bank Plc, Lawal responded to the call, Tuesday.
But EFCC said the allegedly laundered money was a proceed of crime.
The commission’s lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, on Tuesday prayed Justice Hassan to make an order forfeiting the money permanently to the federal government.
Justify the freezing of the money, the lawyer said Section 17 (1) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Related Offences Act makes a property that is reasonably suspected by EFCC to be proceeds of unlawful act forfeitable to the federal government.
Oyedepo said, “Can it be said that from the facts and circumstances of this case, that the N9,080,000,000.00, which is the naira equivalent of $40m cannot be reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activity?”
The EFCC lawyer said there was a conspiracy to launder the money, adding that there was “a meeting of the minds” by those it indicted.

Author: News Editor

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