The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has asked the Federal High Court in Lagos to order the temporary forfeiture of $8,435,788.84 and N7.35bn suspected to be owned by Mrs. Patience Jonathan.
The EFCC yesterday told Justice Mojisola Olatoregun that the funds, which it believes came from Bayelsa State, were found in 15 bank accounts linked with the wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The anti-graft agency’s counsel, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, said the order would prevent Mrs Jonathan from dissipating them.
According to the EFCC, the funds were moved from Bayelsa State’s coffers at a time when the former First Lady served as a permanent secretary.
The agency alleged that Mrs. Jonathan gained access to the funds by fraudulently assuming the identity of one Esther Oba as the signatory to the said account.
The EFCC’s claims were contained in an ex parte application presented by Oyedepo before Justice Olatoregun.
The proceedings were, however, interrupted by a train of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) led by Mr. Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) and Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), who challenged the court’s jurisdiction to entertain the ex parte application.
The SANs told the judge that the funds, which the EFCC seeks to seize, were already subject of litigation.
But Oyedepo maintained that the SANs had no right of hearing in the court, since his application was ex parte.
Wondering how they got wind of the move by the anti-graft agency, he urged the judge to disregard their appearance.
The judge upheld Oyedepo’s submission, following which the SANs left the courtroom.
In view of the development, the judge adjourned till January 23, 2018 and directed the EFCC to file an affidavit to convince the court that there were no pending lawsuits relating to the funds sought to be forfeited.
In the said ex parte application, the EFCC listed Patience Jonathan and five firms and Esther Oba as respondents.
The firms that were listed as second to sixth defendants were Globus Integrated Services Ltd., Finchley Top Homes Ltd., Am-Pm Global Network Ltd., Pagmat Oil And Gas Ltd. and Magel Resort Ltd.
The ex parte application was backed by a 15-paragraph affidavit deposed to by an investigator with the EFCC, Huleji Tukura.
Tukura claimed that investigation by the anti-graft agency revealed that the funds found in the bank accounts linked to Patience emanated from the coffers of Bayelsa State and that the funds were moved at a time when the former First Lady served as a permanent secretary in one of the ministries in Bayelsa State.
According to Tukura, Patience first opened a First Bank account and then “procured” the then Senior Special Assistant to former President Goodluck Jonathan on Domestic Affairs, Waripamo-Owei Dudafa, to fund the account with “proceeds of unlawful activities.”
Tukura averred, “That the said Dudafa Warripamo-Owei procured one Festus Isidohomen Iyoha and Arivi Eneji Peter, who were domestic staff attached to the State House, Abuja, to deposit the funds, reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities, in the account of the 1st respondent (Patience).
“That in depositing the funds into the account of the 1st respondent, the said domestic staff, in a bid to conceal their identity, deposited the funds, reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful act, into the 1st respondent’s account, using fictitious names.
“That the total sum of $4,036,750.00 (Four million, thirty-six thousand, seven hundred and fifty United States’ dollars) reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities, were deposited into account No. 2022648664 domiciled in First Bank Plc in the name of the 1st respondent.
“That on the 28th day of September, 2016, the 1st respondent, in dissipating the property sought to be forfeited, transferred the sum of $3,640,794.72 to the 1st respondent’s account No. 2031277178 domiciled in First Bank Plc.
“That on the 5th day of October, 2016, the 1st respondent withdrew the sum of $1,000,000.00 cash from the said account leaving the balance of the sum of $3,645,013.73 which sum we are urging this honourable court to forfeit in the interim to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“That as at the time the various sums were deposited in into exhibit EFCC01, the 1st respondent was a serving permanent secretary in the employment of the Bayelsa State Government.
“That the funds sought to be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria are not the 1st respondent’s lawful earnings but are rather reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities.”
The investigator further explained that the firms mentioned in the application were not into “any legitimate income-yielding business venture” but were rather incorporated at the Corporate Affairs Commission for the purpose of warehousing proceeds of unlawful activities for the former First Lady.
He claimed that every now and then domestic servants at the Presidential Villa were sent to deposit money into the company’s accounts for Patience.
“The depositors into this account are domestic staff of State House, Abuja, who were procured by the said Dudafa Waripamo-Owei to deposit the funds sought to be forfeited in a bid to conceal the true origin of the funds,” Tukura said.
Making specific reference to Globus Integrated Services Ltd., Tukura said, “None of the Directors of the 3rd Respondent are signatories to the said accounts.
Yinka BenTv Lagos