A Federal High Court Lagos on Tuesday, heard that an Executive Director of First Bank Plc, Dauda Lawal, laundered funds on behalf of former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison Madueke.
Counsel representing the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, made the revelations while responding to a counter affidavit by Lawal.
Lawal is seeking to discharge an interim forfeiture order of the sum of N9.08 billion.
Recall that Justice Muslim Hassan had on Jan. 6, issued an interim order of forfeiture of the said sum to the Federal Government, following an exparte application by EFCC seeking similar relief.
The EFCC had initiated the exparte application seeking an interim order, for the temporary forfeiture to the Federal government of the sum, which it claims is linked to Diezani.
The court had also issued 14 days to any interested party to appear and prove the legitimacy of the monies, failing which the funds would be permanently forfeited to the FG.
At the resumed hearing of the case on Tuesday, Mr Charles Adeogun announced appearance for Lawal, who is joined as respondent in the suit.
On the other hand, Oyedepo announced appearance for the EFCC.
He informed the court that in line with its interim orders of Jan. 6, the EFCC had served same on Lawal.
He also informed the court that the order was also published in the Independence Newspaper of Jan. 12, in compliance with the orders of the court.
In response, counsel to Lawal, (Adeogun) confirmed the position, and added that he had filed a counter affidavit deposed to by Lawal, challenging the said forfeiture orders.
Arguing his application, he urged the court to issue an order, directing a refund of the sum of N9.08billion to his client, on the grounds that same was obtained by coercion.
He argued that before such forfeiture orders can be made, two essential elements must be satisfied namely: “that the property in question is unclaimed, and that such property or funds forms proceeds of an unlawful act.
He said: “We became aware of the forfeiture order when the interim order was served on us; My client was never confronted with these sets of facts during his incarceration at the EFCC.
“After service of the orders, I requested for the statement of my client to the commission, but same was never given to me,” he said.
He argued that his client admitted having received the sum of 25 million dollars in clear dispensation of his duties, but was coerced by the commission to further admit receiving a total of 65 million dollars.
According to him, the sum of 40 million dollars was therefore, taken as an over draft from his bank to offset the alleged extra sum.
He therefore, urged the court to order the immediate refund of the sum to his client.
In his reply, Oyedepo submitted that the tenure of section 17 of the Advanced Fee Fraud and other related offence Act, makes a property which is reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime, forfeitable to the FG.
He queried: “going by the facts and circumstances of this particular case, can it be said that the sum of N9.08 billion which is the naira equivalent of 40 million dollars, was not reasonably suspected to form proceeds of a crime”
He argued that paragraph 4 of the applicant’s reply affidavit shows a meeting of the minds of some staffs of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as well as the respondent to launder funds.
“My lord, paragraph 4 of our reply affidavit shows a meeting of the minds of one Gbenga Komolafe, former group MD, crude oil marketing division NNPC, Prince Haruna Momoh, former group MD Petroleum Product Marketing company, Umar Farouk Ahmed, group MD Nigerian Product marketing company as well as Dauda Lawal, to launder funds on behalf of former petroleum minister, Diezani Allison Madueke,”
According to Oyedepo, “it will amount to contesting the obvious for Lawal to argue that he had no knowledge of the said sums.”
He argued that it was uncommon for a law enforcement agency like the EFCC to detain a person in its custody in perpetuity, without an order of the court, adding that the statement of Lawal was lawfully obtained.
“The respondent was duly cautioned before he voluntarily made his statement at the commission, and his lawyer even appended his signature further attesting to the fact that the statements were obtained voluntarily.
“So having freely volunteered a statement, he cannot urge my lord not to attach full probative value to his statement.
“I submit that the appropriate order in the circumstance is for the court to order a final forfeiture of the sum of N9.08 billion already surrendered by the respondent, to the Federal government.
“I urge the court to so hold,” he said
After listening to the submission of counsels, Justice Hassan fixed Feb. 16 for judgment