Justice Muslim Hassan of the Federal High Court, Lagos, Tuesday, ordered final forfeiture of $43.4m, £27,800, N23.2m discovered in a flat in Osborne, Ikoyi, Lagos to the Federal Government.
The loot was recovered by officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in one of the flats in Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, during a raid on the building Wednesday, April 12.
At the last adjourned date, May 6, the EFCC had sought an order of final forfeiture of the said money.
Earlier, Court had asked anyone who laid claim to the money to show cause why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
The anti-graft Commission told the court that the wife of the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ayo Oke, paid a princely $1.658m to acquire the Osborne flat.
Mrs. Oke was said to have made a cash payment of $1.658m for the purchase of the flat between August 25 and September 3, 2015 in the name of a company, Chobe Ventures Limited.
She and her son, Ayodele Oke Junior, are said to be directors in the company, the EFCC claimed.
Mrs. Oke was also said to have made the cash payment in tranches of $700,000, $650,000 and $353,700 to a Bureau de Change, Sulah Petroleum and Gas Limited, which later converted the sums to N360,000,000 and subsequently paid it to Fine and Country Limited for the purchase of the property.
The prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, tendered as exhibit the receipt issued by Fine and Country Limited to Chobe Ventures Limited.
According to Oyedepo, “The circumstances leading to the discovery of the huge sums stockpiled in Flat 7B, Osborne Towers, leaves no one in doubt that the act was pursuant to an unlawful activity.
“The very act of making cash payment of $1.6m without going through any financial institution by Mrs. Folashade Oke for the acquisition of Flat 7B, Osborne Towers, is a criminal act punishable by the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Amendment Act. I refer My Lord to sections 1(a), 16(d) and 16(2)(b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Amendment Act. ”
Also, in the affidavit filed by the prosecution, Chobe Ventures, which is not into any business, was said to be merely incorporated to retain proceeds of suspected unlawful activities of Mr. Oke.
While urging the court to order the permanent forfeiture of the funds to the Federal Government, Oyedepo argued that the property, which was purchased in a criminal manner, made the money recovered therein to be proceeds of unlawful acts.”
Oyedepo further said that that despite the newspaper advertisement of the initial order of April 13, 2017, temporarily forfeiting the money to the Federal Government, no one showed up in court to show cause why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
Oyedepo also observed that Chobe Ventures Limited, in whose apartment the huge sums were recovered, did not come to court to challenge the forfeiture order, despite being served with the motion on notice at its registered address of No. 18 Ogunmodede street, off Allen Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos.
He added: “The failure of Chobe Ventures Limited, in whose custody these properties we are seeking to forfeit were found, to show cause before My Lord today why the property (money) should not be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria, Your Lordship should hold that Chobe Ventures Limited has admitted all the facts deposed to in our affidavit and order the final forfeiture of the property to the Federal Government. ”
Earlier, a lawyer, Olukoya Ogungbeje, had filed an application urging the court to suspend further action in the forfeiture proceedings pending the outcome of the Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo three-member panel constituted by President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate the claim by the NIA boss, Oke, that the money belongs to the agency.
They further argued that the Commission had not yet identified the owner of the money as required by Section 44(2)(k) of the Constitution
However, Oyedepo urged the court to dismiss the lawyer’s application and award a heavy cost against him for seeking to waste the time of the court.
“I submit that coming to My Lord through the back door by way of this application is a violent abuse of the processes of this court. The application is standing in the way of justice and the applicant even lacks the locus standi to be a party in this suit, ” he added.
Justice Hassan adjourned the matter June 6, 2017.
In a ruling on Tuesday, Justice Hassan said since nobody has come forward to lay claim to the money he has no other option than to make the final forfeiture order.
Justice Hassan held: “I am in complete agreement with the submission of the learned counsel for the applicant (EFCC) that the property sought to be attached are reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities and that by every standard this huge sum of money is not expected to be kept without going through a designated financial institution; more so, nobody has shown cause why the said sum should not be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria. Having regard to the foregoing, I have no other option but to grant this application as prayed.
“For the avoidance of any doubt, I hereby make the following orders: 1. A final order is made forfeiting the sums of $43,449,947 found by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission at Flat 7B of No. 16 Osborne Road, Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, which sum is reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities to the Federal Government of Nigeria.”