A Federal High Court Lagos, on Thursday, ordered the final forfeiture of the sum of N1.83 billion belonging to a former Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Dele Ezeoba.
The court made the order for permanent forfeiture of the sum, following an application by the EFCC prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, pursuant to section 17 of the Advanced fee fraud Act 2006.
Joined in the suit as defendants are Chukwuka Onwuchekwa and Aquila Leasing Ltd.
The trial judge, Justice Muslim Hassan had on March 15, issued an interim order for forfeiture of the said sum.
The judge had then ordered the EFCC to make a publication of same in a national newspaper, for the knowledge of interested parties.
Delivering judgment on Thursday, Hassan ordered a final forfeiture of the total sum of N1.825 billion to the federal government of Nigeria.
Hassan held that the EFCC having complied with the provisions of section 17 of the Advanced Fee fraud Act, as well the EFCC Act, and the fact that the property is unclaimed, it was appropriate to make the orders.
He said: “Having satisfied that such property is an unclaimed property, and also satisfying the provisions of the law, the court shall order the final forfeiture of the said property.
“In this view, there is no other proof required to enable the court make an order of final forfeiture; this application is meritorious and hereby granted.
“An order is hereby made for final forfeiture of the total sum of N1.825 billion to the federal government of Nigeria,”
EFCC had said that the money was traced to the account of Aquila Leasing Ltd, adding that Ezeoba had agreed in his statement to the EFCC to forfeit the money.
He had said that the money was proceed of crime fraudulently diverted from the Nigerian Navy under the leadership of Dele Joseph Ezeoba.
It said Ezeoba used the name of “Chukwuka Onwuchekwa” to open a fraudulent account in disguise, while he was the one who truly laundered the money.
EFCC said that the former Naval Chief stated in his statement that the account was opened with Onwuchekwa’s consent while he (Ezeoba) managed it.
The commission said that in a “desperate bid” to further disguise and conceal the illicit source of the funds, Ezeoba entered into a memorandum of understanding to buy Aquila’s shares from Onwucheka, who is its managing director.
It said that the shares were worth N2.4 billion out of which about N1.83billion has been recovered in drafts in favour of the Federal Government.
The EFCC had therefore, sought for an order of the honourable court, to forfeit the entire sum of N1.825 billion to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the respondent in its processes, did not oppose the application for final forfeiture of the sums.
Counsel to the respondent, Mr. Pascal Madu had said that his clients were not opposed to the permanent forfeiture of the money.
He had however, said that his clients were not involved in any fraud, adding that Ezeoba, gave them the money to buy shares for him, as part of savings over the years.
In reply, Oyedepo had consequently, urged the court to make a permanent forfeiture order, in view of the admission of the respondent.