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Court orders Emefiele to forfeit $1.4m bribery proceeds

The Federal High Court in Lagos, on Tuesday, June 25, ordered the final forfeiture of the sum of $1,426,175.14 said to be bribery proceeds linked to the immediate-past Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele. 

Justice Ayokunle Faji ordered that the funds be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government. 

The final forfeiture order followed an application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Tuesday. The anti-graft agency had earlier on May 29, 2014, secured an interim order temporarily forfeiting the money.

The judge ordered the publication of the court order in the newspapers to give anyone interested in the funds to appear in court and show cause why it should not be permanently forfeited. 

Counsel for the EFCC, Mrs Bilkisu Buhari-Bala, said at the hearing on Tuesday that the commission had complied with the publication order and no one had come forward to claim the money. She added that the funds were proceeds of unlawful activities by Emefiele.

Buhari-Bala said investigation by the EFCC revealed that the ex-CBN governor received the dollars as kick-backs for approving forex allocation to multinational firms during the forex crisis in the country. 

The EFCC lawyer said the court was empowered by Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud-related Offences  Act to make the forfeiture order. 

The forfeiture of the $1.4m on Tuesday comes only days after the same court ordered the permanent forfeiture of choice properties worth N12.18bn from Emefiele.

In an affidavit filed in support of the Tuesday forfeiture application, an EFCC investigator, David Jayeoba, said the anti-graft agency uncovered the money through credible and direct intelligence.

The affidavit reads: “Part of the said funds, which represent the proceeds of Godwin Emefiele and his cronies’ unlawful activities, are retained in the accounts now sought to be forfeited. 

“Uzeobo Anthony and Adebanjo Olurotimi were procured by Godwin Emefiele and used to conceal, retain and disguise funds reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities.

“Between 2021 and 2022, when accessibility to forex in Nigeria was difficult, several international entities operating in Nigeria had to resort to different means to source forex. 

“Both Uzeobo Anthony and Adebanjo Olurotimi used to collect bribes and gratification on behalf of Godwin Emefiele to get approval for accessing forex.

“One of the entities paid a total sum of $26,552,000.00 into the account domiciled in Titan Trust account number 2000000500. 

“The said credits came into the account on the 9th of November 2021: $6,450,000; 15th of November 2021: $6,050,000.00; 16th of December 2021: $5,400,000.00; 23rd of December 2021: $652,000, 31th January 2022: $3,000,000.00 and on the 21st September 2022: $5,000,000.00. 

“The investigation traced the funds to having been fixed into interest-yielding accounts, dissipated and laundered through a foreign account in Mauritius, and transported back to Nigeria under disguise. 

“Of the total sum of $26, 555, 000.00 received by Donatus Limited, the balance standing in the said account as of today is $1,426, 175. 14. 

“It is the balance in the account that the applicant seeks to forfeit to the Federal Government of Nigeria, which has been traced to be the proceeds of unlawful activities of Godwin Emefiele and his cronies.

“That investigation further revealed that the international entities sourcing for forex were pressured into parting with huge funds to access forex during the period. And that the signatories to the account warehousing the sum of $1,426, 175.14) sought to be forfeited are at large and are making frantic efforts to dissipate the funds electronically.”

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