Court orders forfeiture of N449.5m found in shopping complex to FG

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A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the final forfeiture of N449, 597 million found in possession of one Mohammed Tauheed at Legico Shopping Plaza Victoria Island, Lagos to the federal government.

The court presided over by Justice Rilwan Aikawa made the final order of the forfeiture after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), through its lawyer, Idris Mohammed, had moved and argued a motion on notice for final forfeiture of the said money.

While urging the court to grant the motion on notice, Mohammed said the application was brought before the court pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and other fraud related offences Act No. 14, 2006, Section 44(2) (K) of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, and under the inherent jurisdiction of the court.

He also said the application which prayed for the final forfeiture of the money was supported with a 12-paragraph affidavit, a written address and attached with seven exhibits.

He informed the court that since the last date that EFCC made an order of temporary forfeiture of the money, neither the respondent in the suit, one Mohammed Tauheed nor any member of the public had come before the court to show cause why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the federal government.

Delivering ruling on the application, Justice Aikawa declared: “I have perused the motion on notice filed by the applicant in the ruling of this court order which ordered the respondent and other interested parties to show cause why the order should not be made final.

“From the court’s record, the respondent or any other party has not filed any affidavit why the Order should not be made final.

“In the circumstance, I have no option but to grant the motion as prayed. Accordingly, I ordered that the sum of N449. 597 million found in possession of the respondent (Muhammad Tauheed), which reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime be final Forfeited to the Federal government of Nigeria.”

It would be recalled that Justice Aikawa had on April 20, 2017, granted a temporary forfeiture of the said money after the EFCC had approached his court with an affidavit for such order.

In the affidavit sworn to by one of its operatives,  Moses Awolusi, EFCC stated that the anti-graft agency received an intelligent report on the April 7, 2017 that money in several Ghana-must-go bags were warehoused in one of the shops located at Legico Shopping Plaza in Victoria Island, Lagos.

The intelligence report, according to the EFCC, was analyzed and found worthy of investigation against one Mohammed Tauheed.

The deponent also stated that the investigation revealed that on the April 7, 2017, the shop with number LS64 at Legico Shopping Plaza, Ahmadu Bello Way Victoria Island was searched and N449, 579 million was found in different bags popularly known as Ghana-must-go.

He also stated that inquiries on the ownership of the shop where the exhibit was recovered indicated that the shop had not been opened for close to two years.

He added that both the chairman and vice chairman of the plaza, Mr. Sulaiman Mukthar Daba and Alhaji Ishaq Ayandiran, could not trace the identity of the owner of the shop, but came to EFCC’s office with the said Mohammed Tauheed, who claimed the ownership of the money and informed the EFCC that he received the money in cash from a serving government official whose name he will not disclose for security reasons.

He further stated in the affidavit that Mohammed Tauheed, in the presence of his lawyer, agreed to return the money to federal government which is the rightful owner of the money.

The deponent also stated that the said Mohammed Tauheed who was arrested in connection with the money criminally conspired with the owner of the aforementioned shop now at large to launder the said sum.\

The EFCC therefore argued that it would be in the interest of justice if the court could, in the interim, make an order of forfeiture to the federal government and allow Mohammed Tauheed to put on notice and appear before the court within 14 days to show cause why the money found in his possession should not be forfeited to the government.

Aikawa had, after listening to the submissions of EFCC counsel, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, granted order of temporary forfeiture of the money to the government.

The court also ordered EFCC to advertise the order of the court within 14 days for any interested party to come before the court to convince the court while the money should not be permanently forfeited to the federal government.

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