Justice Muslim Hassan of the Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered the temporary forfeiture of the sum of N1.825bn found in the bank accounts of a company, Acquila Leasing Limited.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which obtained the forfeiture order on behalf of the Federal Government on Wednesday, claimed that the N1.825bn was part of a total of N2.387bn allegedly diverted from the coffers of the Nigerian Navy by a former Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Dele Ezeoba (retd.), who headed the navy between 2012 and 2014.
An EFCC prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, took an ex parte application, filed pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act No. 14, 2006 and Section 44(2)(k) of the 1999 Constitution, before Justice Hassan on Wednesday to obtain the temporary forfeiture order.
He urged the judge to urgently grant the forfeiture order in the interest of justice.
The judge granted the order and gave 14 days for the first respondent, Acquila Leasing Limited; the second respondent, Chwuka Onwuchekwa; and any other party interested in the money to appear before him to give reasons why the funds should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
Hassan adjourned till March 29, 2017 for all the interested parties to appear before him.
In an affidavit of urgency filed in support of the application, an operative of the EFCC, Adamu Usman, said Ezeoba was probed following an intelligence report, which, he said, the anti-graft agency analysed and found to be worthy of investigation.
He said the information obtained from Ezeoba on June 21, 2016 by the EFCC revealed that the N1.825bn was proceeds of crime “fraudulently diverted from the Nigerian Navy under the leadership of Ezeoba”.
Usman added that, “Mr. Dele Joseph Ezeoba used the name of the first respondent (Acquila) to open the fraudulent account in disguise while he was the one who truly laundered the money.
“That, in a desperate bid to further disguise and conceal the illicit source of the said funds, Mr. Dele Joseph Ezeoba entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to buy shares of Acquila Leasing Limited from the second respondent (Onwuchekwa), who is the Managing Director of the first respondent.
“That the said shares of Acquila Leasing Limited was worth N2.378,000,000.
“That, out of the N2.378bn, the sum of N1.825bn only has been recovered in drafts in favour of the Federal Government of Nigeria.”
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