Wednesday 10 July 2019

Court Orders Forfeiture Of Diezani’s Landed Property

The Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday ordered the final forfeiture of a plot of land in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, belonging to former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, to the Federal Government.

Justice Chuka Obiozor held that the property was illicitly acquired.

“Upon careful appraisal of the applicant’s motion on notice for final forfeiture before me, I find that the property constitutes a proceed of an unlawful act,” he held.

The judge ruled on an application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The commission said the land, measuring 7,903.71 – 8,029.585 square metres, is on Plot 9, Azikiwe Road, Old GRA (UAC Property on Forces Avenue), Port Harcourt.

It said the land was reasonably suspected to be part of proceeds of unlawful activities.

The EFCC prayed the court for an order to allow it “appoint a competent person or firm to manage the asset/property”.

The anti-graft agency prayed the court to prohibit “any disposal, conveyance, mortgage, lease, sale or alienation or otherwise of the asset/property”.

Its counsel Ebuka Okongwu argued that the judge had the power, pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act 2006, to make the forfeiture order.

Mrs Alison-Madueke, Donald Chidi Amangbo and a firm, Sequoyah Properties Limited, are the respondents.

Justice Obiozor, on April 14, ordered the property’s temporary forfeiture.

He directed the commission to publish the interim order in any national daily in circulation in Port Harcourt and Lagos to enable the respondents and interested persons to show cause why a final order of forfeiture should not be made.

Okongwu told the court that the interim order was published in The Nation on April 15.

According to him, none of the parties filed any counter to the application to show why a final forfeiture order should not be made.

He urged the court to grant the application.

Ruling, Justice Obiozor held: “I see that the order (to publish the interim order) was complied with in the applicant’s exhibit EFCC 22 attached with the motion on notice for final forfeiture.

“In the absence of any counter from the respondents, I have no reason not to grant this application.

“The second and third respondents are not challenging the application and the first respondent opted out of the proceeding.

“The applicant (EFCC) has discharged the burden of proof. Consequently, the prayer of the applicant succeeds.”

The verdict is coming four days after the court ordered the temporary forfeiture of 2,149 pieces of jewellery and a customised gold iPhone, seized from Mrs Alison-Madueke, to the Federal Government.

The items, valued at $40 million (about N14.4 billion), were recovered from the home of the former Minister of Petroleum Resources.

Justice Nicholas Oweibo ordered their temporary forfeiture as prayed for by the EFCC.

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