The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (UK) yesterday ordered that the confiscation order of £1.54 million made against a businessman, Mr. Terry Waya, be reduced to the sum of £392,400.
In a unanimous judgment, the court quashed the confiscation order earlier placed on Waya.
In his lead judgment, Lord Walker said confiscation proceedings must be proportionate and that human rights considerations must be taken into account when deciding a confiscation order.
He submitted that confiscation orders were not imposed to act as further punishment but merely to stop those that are seeking to benefit from their crimes.
The court held that to confiscate the sum would be disproportionate.
It noted that the benefit Waya obtained was the extent to which the terms of his mortgage loan were more generous due to his misrepresenatations.
The implication of the judgment is that Waya, whose London property is worth over £1.5 million, which had already been forfeited by prosecution authorities, will be returned to him with immediate effect.
On August 7, 2007 the Southwark Crown Court sentenced Waya to 80 hours community service to be completed within 12 months.
The Southwark Crown Court had in a confiscation hearing in 2008 ordered Waya to pay a fine of more than £1.5 million within six months or to go to jail for 30 months.
The businessman’s legal battle began in November 2005 when he was arrested on suspicion of money laundering after he came forward to post bail of 500,000 pounds sterling in favour of former Governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.
The then governor had been arrested in London and charged with money laundering. London police arrested Waya on November 23, 2005 on suspicion of money laundering. Following his arwwrest, police authorities seized a banker’s draft for more than half a million pounds sterling.
“This Bankers draft had been sent to him by his bank and represented the closing balance of his accounts,” the police said.
A London police spokesperson said both the police and Waya’s bank had concerns about his finances. His bank subsequently closed his account.
On September 11, 2006, Waya was charged with two counts of obtaining money transfers by deception.
On October 7, 2007, he was found guilty of obtaining money transfers by deception in relation to a mortgage of £465,000k with which he bought his London property at 18A Northgate, Prince Albert Road, London NW87RE.
He was alleged to have given false information in his application about his status, his current employment, date of birth and other details.
A confiscation order made under the Proceeds of Crime, Criminal Justice, or Drug Trafficking Acts (POCA, CJA or DTA) does not confiscate assets! It imposes a debt on the defendant equal to the value of his property.
It is, therefore, left with the defendant to settle the debt with the enforcing magistrates court.
Judges normally allow a time to sell assets and they also set a default prison sentence in case the debt is not settled.