The Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered the temporary forfeiture of N1.8billion allegedly diverted fraudulently by a former Chief of Naval Staff, Dele Joseph Ezeoba.
The court made an interim order forfeiting the N1,825,000,000 to the Federal Government.
The order followed an application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which said the money was traced to the account of a company, Aquila Leasing Limited.
The commission said Ezeoba agreed in his statement to EFCC to forfeit the money.
Justice Muslim Hassan said anyone who does not want the money to be permanently forfeited should appear in court within 14 days.
“The money is proceed of crime fraudulently diverted from the Nigerian Navy under the leadership of Dele Joseph Ezeoba,” EFCC alleged.
It said Ezeoba allegedly used the name of Chukwuka Onwuchekwa to open a fraudulent account while he (Ezeoba) was the one who “truly” laundered the money.
EFCC said the former Naval Chief stated in his statement that the account was opened with Onwuchekwa’s consent while he (Ezeoba) managed it.
“Neither the signature used in opening the account nor the drivers’ license used in opening the account is his,” the commission said.
According to EFCC, in a “desperate bid” to further disguise and conceal the illicit source of the funds, Ezeoba entered into a memorandum of understanding to buy Aquila’s shares from Onwucheka, who is the firm’s managing director.
It said the shares were worth N2.378billion out of which N1.8billion has been recovered in drafts in favour of the Federal Government.
“The order of this Honourable Court is needed to forfeit the sum of N1,825,000,000 to the Federal Government of Nigeria,” the commission said.
According to EFCC, the sum “is reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activity.”
Granting the application on Wednesday, Justice Muslim Hassan directed EFCC to notify the defendants in whose possession the money is, to report in court within 14 days to show cause as to why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
An EFCC operative, Adamu Usman, in a supporting affidavit, said he was part of a special task force team assigned to investigate an intelligence report received against the respondents (Onwuchekwa and Aquila Leasing).
He said investigations showed that Ezeoba, in a bid to conceal the proceeds of crime, fraudulently opened an account in the name of Corporate Remedies Ltd in Zenith Bank Plc using Onwuchekwa’s name as the account owner while he (Ezeoba) “was the one who truly laundered the money”.
Usman said Onwuchekwa denied opening the Corporate Remedies’ account.
“The sane Dele Joseph Ezeoba has stated in his statement that he is in agreement with the first respondent that the sum of N2,378,000,000 be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“Out of the amount, the sum of N1,825,000,000 only has been recovered in drafts in favour of the Federal Government,” EFCC said.
Justice Hassan adjourned until March 29.