A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to immediately release two exotic cars in its custody to the owner, Mr. Anthony Adejugbe.
The presiding judge, Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo, gave the order sequel to a motion on notice filed by Anthony Adejugbe and his company, Tonique Oil Services Limited, through their lawyer, Lanre Ogunlesi (SAN), seeking a court order directing the EFCC to release the vehicles-Toyota RAV4 with registration number JW 383 AAA and a Lexus SUV LX 570 marked TE 389 KJA in the custody of the commission.
The commission took possession of the two vehicles following an interim order of forfeiture obtained from the Federal High Court on July 23, 2013.
The court had earlier granted the order of interim forfeiture on the ground that the applicants were facing a charge at a Lagos High Court, Ikeja.
The court, presided over by Justice Lateefat Okunnu, had on November 13, 2017, discharged and acquitted Adejugbe and his company, Tonique Oil Services Limited, of any crime, therefore removing the basis for the continued seizure of the two cars.
Delivering ruling on the application seeking the release of the cars last Friday, Justice Oguntoyinbo held that though the court recognised the power of the EFCC to temporary forfeit any property under investigation in order to preserve it from being dissipated, however, such interim order of forfeiture should not last forever, adding that once the owner or owners of such properties are cleared of any guilt, their properties should be released to them by lifting such order of forfeiture.
The trial judge held that since the Lagos State High court has discharged and acquitted the applicants of any crime, there is no basis for the commission to hold on to the two vehicles, also, it did not file any application for stay of execution nor appeal the judgment of the court discharging the applicants.
Consequently, Justice Oguntoyinbo ordered the EFCC to forthwith release the two vehicles to the applicants, Adejugbe and Tonique Oil Services Limited.
The EFCC had sometimes in 2012, charged Adejugbe and his firm, Tonique Oil Services Limited, before Justice Lateefat Okunnu of Ikeja High Court on a two count-charge of alleged N272.5 million fraud in a charge marked ID/198C/2012.
However, Justice Okunnu, in her judgment delivered in November 2017, discharged and acquitted Adejugbe and his firm of the said crime.
Freeing Adejugbe and his firm of the said charge, Justice Okunnu held that the prosecution did not bring up substantial evidence to prove its case against them.
The judge ruled that “there is therefore reasonable doubt regarding the case of prosecution that the payment in question was intended by the defendants for use in paying off part of the second defendant’s loan.
‘’In the event, and by reason of all the foregoing, it is my findings that this is neither a case of stealing nor one of obtaining by false pretence.”
Reviewing the facts of the case as presented by both parties before the court, Justice Okunnu said the prosecution failed to bring strong evidence enough to show that there was such known fact or even a whiff of rumour to back their case of alleged fraud against the defendants.