A Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, yesterday ordered temporary forfeiture of four bank drafts to totalling N37.5 million and a hotel, La Diva, belonging to the former managing director of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Mr. Calistus Obi.
Justice Saidu gave the order, following an ex parte application filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) through its counsel, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo.
The hotel, which is located at Block V, Phase V and Plot11, Core Area, Asaba, Delta State, comprises 22 rooms, a lobby bar, a restaurant, a kitchen, a swimming pool, a 350-seater hall, a gymnasium and a parking lot sitting on a 3000-metre square of land.
Oyedepo, told the court that the money used to purchase the property was fraudulently converted by the respondent from the account of NIMASA.
The EFCC, in an affidavit in support of the application, also stated that the respondent used the funds he received from the agency’s Committee on Intelligence Gathering and Technical Committee on Ratification to purchase the hotel.
The applicant’s counsel further told the court that the respondent had raised the drafts (one Zenith Bank Plc draft and three Diamond Bank Plc draft) in the name of the EFCC to pay back part of the money he fraudulently acquired from the NIMASA account while being prosecuted for money laundering for which he was eventually convicted on May 23, 2019.
Oyedepo, therefore, urged the court to grant the prayers of the anti-graft agency on the grounds that the property and funds “are reasonably suspected to be acquired with the proceeds of some unlawful activities.”
After listening to the prayers of the applicant, the judge gave order for interim forfeiture of the funds and property.
The judge also directed the publication of the interim forfeiture order in any national newspaper for the respondent or any party who is interested in the property to appear before the court and show cause within fourteen (14) days why the final order of forfeiture of the said property should not be made in favour of the Federal Government
Justice Saidu adjourned the case to November 4, 2019, for further hearing.
It would be recalled that Obi was appointed as acting head of NIMASA two months after President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office in 2015.
He was appointed after the president sacked the former chief executive of the agency, Dr. Patrick Akpobolokemi.
Last June, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun slapped a seven-year jail term on Obi having found him guilty of money laundering and converting the agency’s funds to personal use.
The court which refused to order the forfeiture of his seized assets however gave him an option of N42 million fine.