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EFCC Seeks Permanent Forfeiture of Diezani's N9.08bn

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Tuesday asked the Federal High Court in Lagos to order the forfeiture of N9.billion allegedly laundered for former Minister of Petroleum Resources Diezani Allison-Madueke.

The former minister who is currently in London in a recent statement that she did not steal any funds belonging to the government.

Justice Muslim Hassan had on January 6 ordered the forfeiture of N23,446,300,000 and $5milion (about N1.5billion) said to be stashed in banks. Rotimi Oyedepo, EFCC counsel urged the court on Tuesday to order the permanent forfeiture of the money to the Federal Government.

Oyedepo said 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.

“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 $40million cannot be reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activity?” Oyedepo asked.

Charles Adeogun, lawyer to Executive Director of First Bank Plc, Dauda Lawal, asked the court to order a refund, stating that the funds were siezed by the EFCC through coercion.

Adeogun argued that his client admitted having received $25 million on Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s behalf, but was coerced by the commission to further admit receiving $65 million.

Oyedepo however said there was a conspiration between Adeogun and some NNPC officials to launder the money.

“My lord, paragraph 4 of our reply affidavit shows a meeting of the minds of one Gbenga Komolafe, former Group Managing Director, Crude Oil Marketing Division of NNPC, Prince Haruna Momoh, former Group Managing Director, Petroleum Product Marketing company, Umar Farouk Ahmed, and Group Managing Director, Nigerian Product Marketing Company, Stanley Lawson, Babajide Sonoiki and the second respondent, Executive Director of First Bank of Nigeria.

“The evidence shows their agreement to retain and launder funds on behalf of the former Petroleum Minister Diezanni Alison-Madueke.

“It’ll amount to contesting the obvious to argue that the second respondent did not have knowledge of the source of the money,” Oyedepo said.

The lawyer denied that EFCC detained Lawal without a court order, adding that his statement was lawfully and voluntarily obtained.

He said Lawal admitted that the $40million was in his possession.

Oyedepo added: “I submit that the proper order your Lordship should make is the final forfeiture of the N9.08billion to the Federal Government being sum found in proceed of unlawful activity.

“I urge my Lord to hold that the second respondent (Lawal) has not shown good cause why the said sum should not be forfeited. The funds were recovered from him. The funds we’re seeking to attach is in possession of the second respondent.

“Having advertised to the whole world pursuant to the order of my lord and no one else came to claim the money except the second respondent, it’ll be appropriate to order the forfeiture of the N9.08billion.

“For the other respondents, in view of their failure to react to the case, they are deemed to have admitted the facts contained in our application.

“Since no one has shown cause in relation to N23,446,300,000 and the sum of $5milion, I, therefore, urge your lordship to order the forfeiture of the sums to the Federal Government finally.”

Justice Hassan adjourned until February 16 for judgment.

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Damilola is a full time journalist/writer/freelancer and blogger.

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