Again, Court Orders Forfeiture of Patience Jonathan’s $5.9m

  •  EFCC files more charges against Jonathan’s cousin, wife

Iyobosa Uwugiaren in Abuja and Davidson Iriekpen in Lagos 

Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of the Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday granted a fresh order of interim forfeiture of the sum of $5.9 million belonging to a former First Lady Mrs. Patience Jonathan.

The order came less than 24 hours after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) withdrew an application seeking to stop her from having access to the money, which is in Skye Bank.

Justice Olatoregun had in December 2016, ordered that the account be frozen, but on April 6, 2017, she directed that the account be unfrozen.

Subsequently, Mrs. Jonathan tried to withdraw some money from the account, but she was not allowed to do so owing to a stay of execution application filed by the EFCC.

Dramatically, on Tuesday, EFCC’s counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, told the court that he was withdrawing the application.

He said the anti-graft agency had decided not appeal against the order unfreezing the account.

This was consequent upon the request of the counsel to Mrs. Jonathan,  Ifedayo Adedipe, to withdraw the contempt application against Skye Bank, which had declined allowing the former first lady access to her account, the EFCC for disobeying the court’s order.

The judge then granted the requests for the withdrawal of the applications.

 In the new motion titled: ‘Action in Rem,’ the anti-graft agency is also seeking an order directing the interim forfeiture of the sum of N2.4 billion discovered in an Ecobank account in the name of La wari Furniture and Bath Ltd,  which sum it said, is reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime.

In addition, the commission sought an order, directing the publication in any national mewspaper, of the said order, to enable any interested party to appear and show cause why the interim order should not be made final.

In an affidavit in support deposed to by one Musbahu Abubakar, the commission averred that it received an intelligence report that funds suspected to be proceeds of crime were warehoused in a Skye Bank account in the name of Mrs. Jonathan.

It added that the said report was analysed and found worthy of investigation, adding that the ex-first lady opened the account on February 7. 2013.

According to the commission, several cash deposits were made by the ex-first lady in United States dollars,  through a former Special Assistant to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Waripamo Dudafa.

It averred that another frequent depositor of funds into the said account was one Festus Iyoha, whom it said was a steward of the State House Abuja.

The EFCC said that between February 8 2013 and January 30, 2015, the sum of about $6.7 million, suspected to be proceeds of crime, was deposited into the account.

It said Mrs. Jonathan had dissipated the funds, leaving a balance of about $5.9 million.

It therefore stated that if the funds are not forfeited in the interim, it might be fully dissipated by Jonathan.

The EFCC added that the sum of N2.03 billion, reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime is currently on fixed deposit in the account of La wari Furniture,  plus a credit balance of about N389 million.

It urged the court to grant the application in the interest of justice.

Justice Mojisola Olatoregun has fixed May 15, to enable any interested party to appear and show cause why the interim order should not be made final.

  Meanwhile, the EFCC has filed more charges in the case it earlier brought  against former President Goodluck Jonathan’s cousin, Azibaola Robert and wife, Stella, over money laundering case. The case comes today.

In the two new additional charges filed against the suspects, the anti-graft agency has named two companies it may likely bring to serve as prosecution witnesses in the case before Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court.

None of these companies was listed as witnesses in the earlier seven-count charge based on which the accused persons were arraigned in June 2016.

In the amended case marked FHC/ABJ/CR/113/2016, the prosecution has added the names of Capital Field Investment and Trust Limited and Teledom International Limited as new firms, which Oneplus transferred forex which the commission alleged was money laundry against Azibaola and wife.

The EFCC argued that the transfers form part of proceeds of $40 million, which their company, Oneplus, allegedly illegally got from the office of the National Security Adviser.

The EFCC claimed in the new charges that the accused persons knew or reasonably ought to have known that the said fund represented the proceeds of an unlawful activity of Col. Mohammed Sambo Dasuki (rtd), the then Notional Security Adviser.

But before the amendment of the charges, EFCC had pleaded with Justice Dimgba to adjourn the case for the second time on the grounds that it could not immediately produce the six witnesses it intended to call.