BY OLUGBENGA SOYELE, Lagos
Justice Saliu Saidu of the Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday ordered the temporary forfeiture of Flat 7B Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, where the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) discovered the sums of $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23,218,000 in April this year, to the federal government.
Justice Saidu ordered the interim forfeiture of the building to the government after entertaining an ex parte application moved by the counsel to the anti-graft agency, Rotimi Oyedepo.
Oyedepo told the judge that the funds used to acquire the property belonged to the federal government but was fraudulently converted to the use of one Chobe Ventures, which was used to acquire the property.
The EFCC had, while arguing the application, named the wife of the director-general of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA), Mrs. Folashade Oke, as the alleged owner of the flat.
The EFCC had alleged that it found out that Mrs. Oke had made a cash payment of $1.658million for the purchase of the flat between August 25 and September 3, 2015.
She was said to have purchased the property in the name of a company, Chobe Ventures Ltd, in which she and her son, Master Ayodele Oke Junior, were directors.
Payment for the purchase of the flat was said to have been made to one Fine and Country Ltd.
The EFCC further revealed that Mrs. Oke made the cash payment in tranches of $700,000, $650,000 and $353,700 to a Bureau de Change company, Sulah Petroleum and Gas Ltd, which later converted the sums into N360,000,000 and subsequently paid it to Fine and Country Ltd for the purchase of the property.
The anti-graft agency had tendered the receipt issued by Fine and Country Ltd to Chobe Ventures Ltd as an exhibit before the Federal High Court, where it had got an order of final forfeiture of the recovered money to the federal government.
The commission had also claimed that the circumstances leading to the discovery of the huge sums stockpiled in Flat 7B, Osborne Towers, left no one in doubt that the act was pursuant to an unlawful activity.
“The very act of making cash payment of $1.6million 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,” a counsel for the EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, told the court on Friday.
In an affidavit filed before the court, a detective inspector with the EFCC, Mohammed Chiroma, stated that “Chobe Ventures Ltd is not into any business but was merely incorporated to retain proceeds of suspected unlawful activities of Mrs. Folashade Oke.”
After listening to the EFCC and reviewing the evidence submitted in proof of the application, Justice Saidu granted the interim forfeiture order and directed the EFCC to advertise the order within 14 days in any national daily to serve as notice to Chobe Ventures, its directors and any interested persons to come before the court to show cause why the property should not be permanently forfeited to the federal government.
He adjourned the case till November 30 for such interested parties to appear in court.
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