Justice Saliu Saidu of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Monday, ordered the temporary forfeiture of four bank drafts totalling N37.5m and a hotel, La Diva, belonging to Calistus Obi, a former acting Director-General, of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
Obi took over from Patrick Akpobolokemi as Acting DG of NIMASA on July 16, 2015. He, however, held the position for only three days before he was directed to hand over to Haruna Baba Jauro, who is also currently being prosecuted for alleged corruption by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Justice Saidu gave the order following an ex parte application filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, through its counsel, 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.
Counsel to EFCC, Rotimi 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”.
Justice Saidu, after listening to the prayers of the applicant, ordered the 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 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.
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