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Money laundering: Court orders businessman to forfeit $700,000 to FG

• As Lagos director forfeits N28.5m, houses

A Federal High Court in Lagos, on Thursday, ordered a businessman, Ani Paulinus Onyeka, to forfeit $700,000 out of the $1, 909,140 he allegedly laundered to the Federal Government.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had accused Onyeka of laundering $1, 909, 140, but, he entered a plea bargain arrangement with the agency.

Justice Rilwan Aikawa had on October 25, ordered Onyeka’s arrest for refusing to show up in court to answer to a money laundering charge slammed on him by the anti-graft agency.

The EFCC had filed a two count-charge marked, FHC/L/161c/2014, against the businessman over his failure to declare $1, 909,140, which he allegedly laundered from the Republic of Congo to the men of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS).

But, when the matter came up on Thursday, the accused person owned up to the alleged offence after entering into a plea bargain agreement with the EFCC.

The EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, said the defendant was handed over to the commission following his arrest on February 23, 2014 with $1, 909,140 at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport by men of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).

He said the defendant who claimed to be a Congolese, disclosed in his statement that the money was given to him by one, Ikechukwu Frank, for delivery to one, Jude Okoye.

The lawyer added that the businessman was arrested by men of the NCS while attempting to deliver the money without
going through any financial institution.

Oyedepo also displayed a letter from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) showing that the money is in its custody. He also revealed that the commission had signed a plea bargain agreement dated December 4, 2017, with the accused person.

He subsequently urged the court to convict the defendant in view of his plea and overwhelming evidences against him.

Justice Aikawa ordered that the businessman should forfeit $700, 000 to the Federal Government out of the seized money.

A breakdown of the money to be forfeited by the defendant showed that he was given an option of fine of $50, 000 while he is also to forfeit $650, 000 to the Federal Government.

According to the judge, the money which is to be paid from the recovered $1, 909,140, that was kept in the safe custody of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is to be credited to the consolidated fund of the federation.

“The remaining sum of $1, 209, 140 should be released to the defendant through a designated financial institution in strict compliance with the provisions of Section 1 (a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011, as amended.

“The defendant shall within seven days after the payment of the fine imposed by the court, enter into a bond with the EFCC never to be involved in economic and financial crimes within and outside the shores of Nigeria,” the judge added.

In a related development, a Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered that a Director of Account, Lagos State Ministry of Public Works Corporation, Anifowoshe Jamiu, temporarily forfeit N28.5 million to the Federal Government.

Justice Mohammed Idris made the order while granting an Ex-parte application filed before the court by Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, and argued by Muhammad Idris, lawyers to the EFCC against the Director of Account.

Besides, Justice Idris also ordered that six flats of three bedrooms, another six flats of two bedrooms, and six flats of 1 bedroom, located at Adewale Osiyeku Street, Offin-Ile, Igbogbo-Ikorodu, Lagos: and four flats of three Bedroom duplex, located at 6, Tunde Gabby Close, Dopemu Area, Pako Bus Stop, Agege, Lagos, belonging to the director of account, be temporary forfeited to the Federal Government.

The court also ordered interim forfeiture of a semi-detached three bedroom flat, and one unit of three bedroom terrance at Cranbel Court, Citiview Estate Arepo, Ogun State, and a plot of land situated at Queen’s Garden Estate, off Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, to the Federal Government for being proceeds of unlawful activities.

Justice Idris, however, ordered the EFCC to publish the order granted in a national newspaper notifying the respondent in whose possession the properties sought to be forfeited are found and recovered to appear before the Court and show cause within 14 days why the properties should not be forfeited to the Federal Government.

The EFCC had in an affidavit deposed to by one of its investigators, Zayyanu Halliru, stated that Jamiu is a Director of Accounts under the Ministry of Public Works Corporation, Lagos State, who is also a custodian initiator, first authorizer and final authorizer of the internet banking system of Public Work Corporation, Lagos State.

The deponent averred that the Respondent while as Director of Finance Incorporated a company called Maj Anny International Limited, where he is one of the directors of the company and sole signatory to the company account, and used his position to divert public funds meant for Public Work Corporation, Lagos State.

The deponent stated that, as a fact, his agency traced N106,095,960million and the sum of N223, 373, 475, which he fraudulently stolen from Public Works Corporation, Lagos State, and diverted to his company, Maj Anny International Limited.

Furthermore, it was stated that the respondent used his office and position to enrich himself with the funds from Public works Corporation to acquire landed properties within Lagos and Ogun State, which the EFCC has recovered.

Also, the deponent stated that the respondent used part of the proceeds of crime allegedly stolen from Public Work Corporation, Lagos State to purchase and acquire the said properties. And that out the stolen funds highlighted above, the respondent purchased two properties from a company called Property Mart Real Estate Investment Limited in the sum of N37,740,000m. While the sum of N28,500,000million was recovered from him.

The deponent stated that the respondent will not be prejudiced if the application is granted.

Justice Idris said: “I have perused all the processes filed and the submission of learned counsel for the applicant. I find merit in the application and same is granted as prayed.

“The applicant (EFCC) is hereby ordered to publish this order to put any interested parties to come and show why this properties should not be permanently forfeited to Federal Government of Nigeria within 14 days from today.”

The case has been adjourned till January 16, 2018 for hearing.

Peter Fowoyo

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