By Sandra Umeh
A Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday ordered the temporary forfeiture of the sum of 43million dollars, 27,800 pounds and N23 million to the Federal Government.
The money was recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from an apartment in the Ikoyi area of Lagos on Wednesday.
The EFCC had in an ex parte application, sought an interim order of the court to forfeit the money to the Federal Government.
In a ruling on Thursday, the court, presided over by Justice Muslim Hassan, ordered that the funds be temporarily forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The judge adjourned until May 5, for anyone interested in the funds to show up before him, to show cause why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
The judge made the forfeiture order shortly after entertaining an ex parte application filed by counsel for the EFCC, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo.
The EFCC had on Wednesday evening raided an apartment numbered Flat 7B, No. 13, Osborne Road, Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, recovering the sums of $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23,218,000 kept in iron cabinets and “Ghana must go’’ bags in the said apartment which was under security locks.
Moving the ex parte application for the interim forfeiture of the funds, Oyedepo told the court that no one had come forward to claim it, adding that the staff of one AM Facilities managing the apartment where the huge sums were found could not provide the anti-graft agency with information on the possible owner of the money.
He urged the judge to exercise the power conferred on him by Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and other related Offences Act to order the interim forfeiture of the money to the Federal Government.
“We received an intelligence that No.16, Osborne Road, Osborne Towers, Flat 7B had in it various sums of money that we are seeking to forfeit.
“The intelligence was acted upon and on getting there, we executed Exhibit EFCC 1, which is a search warrant. As God would have it sir, we were able to recover $43, 449,947; still in the same flat, we also recovered £27,800. That was not all, we were also able to recover N23, 218, 000.
“For security reasons and because of the volume, we did not want to bring the money before My Lord, but we have registered it as an exhibit with the exhibit keeper and the evidence is contained in Exhibit EFCC 04.
“Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and other fraud related Offences Act empowered My Lord, where a property is found to be an unclaimed property or where a property is found to be proceeds of an unlawful activity, to forfeit such property in the interim,’’ Oyedepo said.
He drew the judge’s attention to a portion of the court papers where the commission had stated under oath that “no one had approached the commission to claim the said money, with reasonable evidence, confirming the genuineness of the origin of the money that we are seeking to forfeit in the interim’’.
“I, therefore, humbly and most respectfully urge My Lord to forfeit this money to the Federal Government, pending when anyone who has the mind to come and claim the money,’’ the lawyer added.
After listening to him, Justice Hassan, in a short ruling, said that in view of the facts placed before him, he was “mindful of granting the interim reliefs sought,’’ by the EFCC.
He also granted the anti-graft agency’s prayer to advertise or publish the interim forfeiture order in any national newspaper for any concerned party to see it.
He adjourned till May 5, 2017 to allow such a person to come before him to give reasons why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.