The Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday ordered the final forfeiture of the sum of N449,597,000 found in an abandoned Bureau de Change shop in Victoria Island, Lagos by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The forfeiture order was made by Justice Rilawan Aikawa following a motion on notice taken before him by the anti-graft agency.
The judge ordered that the funds should be forfeited to the Federal Government as no one came forward to claim it.
The judge had earlier on April 19 ordered the temporary forfeiture of the money and adjourned till Friday for one Mohammed Tauheed, who was joined as respondent in the suit, and any other interested party to appear before him to give reasons why the money should be finally forfeited to the Federal Government.
On Friday, counsel for the EFCC, Idris Mohammed, told the judge that the interim order of April 19 had been advertised in the newspaper on May 11, so as to bring the case to the notice of Tauheed or any interested party.
He added that apart from the newspaper publication, Tauheed was also served with the motion on notice.
He urged the judge to order the final forfeiture of the money since neither Tauheed nor anyone else came forward to claim it.
Justice Aikawa, in a short ruling, granted the application.
The judge held, “This court ordered, among others, the respondent (Tauheed) and any other interested party to show cause, within 14 days, why the interim forfeiture of N449,597,000 should not be made final. As far as my record shows, neither the respondent nor any other interested party has filed any affidavit or any other process to show cause why the interim order should not be made final.
“In the instant case, the respondent has, additionally, not filed any process in response to the motion on notice. In the circumstances, I have no option but to grant the application as prayed.
“Accordingly, I hereby ordered that the sum of N449,597,000 found in possession of the respondent, which sum is reasonably suspected to be proceeds of an unlawful activity, be finally forfeited to the Federal Government.”
An investigator with the EFCC, Moses Awolusi, had, in an affidavit filed before the judge, stated that operatives of the anti-graft agency found the N449,597,000 on April 7, 2017 in several “Ghana Must Go” sacks in a shop numbered LS64, located on at Legico Shopping Plaza, at Victoria island, Lagos.
He said the EFCC found out that the shop had not been opened for two years, adding that the anti-graft agency recovered the money after investigating intelligence information received on Tauheed.
According to the investigator, Tauheed allegedly conspired with the owner of the abandoned shop to launder the money.
Awolusi said Tauheed had earlier been brought to the EFCC office by the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Legico shopping Plaza, Sulaiman Daba and Alhaji Ishaq Ayandiran, respectively.
He said during the visit, Tauheed told the anti-graft agency that he received the money in cash from a serving government official, whose name he refused to disclose “for security reasons.”
He said Tauheed, in the presence of his lawyer, later agreed to return the money to the Federal Government, which is the rightful owner of the funds strongly suspected to be proceeds of criminal activities of the unnamed serving government official.
The EFCC said it would be in the interest of justice for the court to order the permanent forfeiture of the money to the Federal Government.