The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday urged the Federal High Court in Lagos to order the forfeiture of N9.billion allegedly laundered for former Minister of Petroleum Resources Diezani Allison-Madueke.
Mrs Alison-Madueke, who is in London, has denied any wrongdoing, alleging that she is being persecuted.
Justice Muslim Hassan had on January 6 ordered the temporary forfeiture of the money.
They include a N23,446,300,000 and $5milion (about N1.5billion) said to be stashed in banks.
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, Dauda Lawal, responded.
EFCC said the allegedly laundered money was a proceed of crime.
Yesterday, the commission’s lawyer, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, 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.
“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.
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.
Oyedepo was arguing EFCC’s opposition to an application by Lawal, who was accused of aiding Mrs. Alison-Madueke in laundering the funds.
Lawal is praying the court to discharge the interim forfeiture order.
His lawyer, Mr Charles Adeogun, urged the court to issue an order directing a refund of the temporarily forfeited N9.08billion on the grounds that EFCC seized it through coercion.
He argued that before such forfeiture orders could be made, it must be ascertained that the property in question is unclaimed, and that such property or funds form proceeds of an unlawful act.
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.
According to him, the $40 million was taken as an overdraft from his bank to offset the alleged extra sum.
He is, therefore, praying the court to order the immediate refund of the sum to his client.
But, Oyedepo argued that there was a meeting of the minds between Lawal and some officials of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to launder the funds.
“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.
Source : The Nation