By Davidson Iriekpen
A Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to freeze the multiple bank accounts operated by former First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, on the grounds that it contains suspected proceeds of crime.
The account, with Skye Bank Plc, has a balance of $5,316.66.
Also affected by the order are five companies and one Esther Oba.
The companies are believed to have a total of N7,418,829,290.94 in six banks, while Oba has a balance of $429,381.87.
The order by the court was consequent upon an ex-parte motion filed by EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo.
He contended that there was an urgent need for the court to direct the bank to, in the interim, freeze the accounts, to prevent further dissipation of the money.
The five companies affected are Finchley Top Homes Limited, Aribawa Aruera, Magel Resort Limited, AM -PM Global Network Limited Pansy Oil and Gas Limited.
Finchley Top Homes Limited was alleged to have opened an account with Ecobank Plc which has a current balance of N226,376,700.23 and a fixed deposit with a balance of N1,099,511,484.88.
The company also has other accounts in Skye Bank and with a current balance of N14,173,848.85; Fidelity Bank with a balance of N1,800,494,000; Stanbic Bank with a balance of N40,594,12.88; and Diamond Bank with a balance of N39,418,712.12.
Aribawa Aruera Reachout Foundation opened account number 1222014221 with Ecobank and has a closing balance of N479,893,431.01, while Magel Resort Limited accounts with Fidelity Bank has a subsisting balance of N1,000,494,000.
The company also operates two other accounts in Zenith Bank, which has a balance of N858,923,982, and with Diamond Bank and has a balance of N174,166,207.
AM-PM Global Network Limited opened an account with Diamond Bank and has a balance of N7,213,303.50.
The account opened by Pansy Oil and Gas Limited at Fidelity Bank has a balance of N1,809,666,494.68, while that at Diamond Bank has a balance of N55,930,024.50.
Oba was believed to have opened an account with Diamond Bank and has a balance of $429,381.87.
All the monies, according to the anti-graft commission, are suspected to be proceeds of crime.
It said upon the receipt of an intelligence report, it carried out analyses, which showed that the accounts merited being investigated.
Consequently, Oyedepo contended that it would serve the course of justice to grant the application for such.
The presiding judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, while granting the order freezing the accounts, ordered the anti-graft agency to file an undertaking should it turn out that the order should not have been made.
Recall that a Federal High Court in Lagos presided over by Justice Mohammed Idris had recently granted leave to Mrs. Jonathan, to amend her civil suit against the commission.
The former first lady, in the civil suit before Justice Idris, is claiming that EFCC froze four of her accounts with Skye Bank in the name of four companies.
The accounts, she said, had a balance of $15,591,700 (about N5 billion) belonging to her.
But, the companies, on September 15, pleaded guilty to laundering the money when they were arraigned in a criminal charge before Justice Babs Kuewumi.
The judge, however, refused to order its forfeiture to the federal government until the trial of the others named in the charge was concluded.
The companies are: Pluto Property and Investment Company Ltd (represented by Friday Davis), Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Ltd (represented by Agbor Baro), Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Ltd (represented by Dioghowori Frederick) and Avalon Global Property Development Ltd (represented by Taiwo Ebenezer).
EFCC arraigned them with a former Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to President Jonathan, Waripamo Dudafa, a lawyer, Amajuoyi Briggs and a banker, Adedamola Bolodeoku.
Dudafa, Briggs and Bolodeoku pleaded not guilty to the 17-count charge.
Mrs. Jonathan, in a separate suit against EFCC and Skye Bank, before Justice Idris, was seeking an order to de-freeze the accounts and release her money.
Her lawyer, Adedipe, had told Justice Idris that his client amended her claim. He said he also filed a motion to regularise his processes, which the court granted.
EFCC’s lawyer, Oyedepo, said he would also amend his response to the suit.
Justice Idris then said: “Leave will be granted to the respondent (EFCC) to file any amended process.”
Oyedepo accused the applicant of changing the address of the companies through which the suit was purportedly served on them. Mrs. Jonathan had joined the companies in her suit.
The EFCC lawyer said: “We are of the opinion that if you want to change the address of a party, it should not the adversary who will change the address of another party.
“What we saw was the applicant was changing the address of the other defendants and I don’t think that is tidy.”
Justice Kuewumi had on November 2 refused an order the forfeiture of $15.5million after convicting the companies in whose accounts the money is domiciled.
The judge said he would hand down a sentence on the companies after the trial of the others who pleaded not guilty in the charge.
Justice Kuewumi said: “The ownership issue is still pending. There’s also a pending suit on the matter.”
While reviewing the facts, Oyedepo said the money was stolen from the State House, Abuja.
He said: “EFCC received an intelligence report showing vividly that the fourth to seventh defendants retained proceeds of crime.
“Our investigations showed that Fetus Iyoha admitted receiving the fund from the first defendant (Dudafa). Iyoha is a domestic staff at the State House. He admitted that funds credited into the accounts were given to him from the State House.”
Oyedepo said Iyoha paid $3,096,377.38 into Pluto’s account; paid $3,410,534.71 into Seagate’s account, paid $3,765,711.87 into Trans Oceans’ account, and paid $250,000 into Avalon Global’s accout. All the accounts, EFCC said, are domiciled in Skye Bank Plc.
Mrs Jonathan claimed she operated the accounts even though they were opened in the companies’ names by Dudafa contrary to her instructions. She said the bank promised to rectify the issue and change the accounts names to hers’ but never did so.
Justice Idris adjourned until January 18 for hearing. Trial in case before Justice Kuewumi will continue on December 14.