…Orders forfeiture of Diezani’s two additional houses***
Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court in Abuja has lifted an order made on May 30, freezing 16 bank accounts linked to wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Patience.
Justice Nyako in a ruling yesterday ordered the lifting of the freezing order that barred Mrs. Jonathan and 10 organizations linked to her from accessing the accounts containing aggregate sums of $5.8million and N3.5billion.
Yesterday’s ruling was on an application that Mrs. Jonathan and the 10 companies filed to challenge an ex-parte interim freezing order earlier obtained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Listed as applicants with Mrs. Jonathan, in the application, are the Incorporated Trustees of Ariwabai Aruera Reachout Foundation, Pagmat Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited, Flinchley Top Homes Limited, Incorporated Trustees of Women for Change and Development Initiative Nigeria, Transocean Property and Investment Ltd, Seagate Property Development Investment Company, Globus Integrated Services and Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited.
Justice Nyako upheld the applicants that the interim forfeiture order had elapsed and could not be renewed by the EFCC.
Five of the accounts are domiciled in Skye Bank Plc, seven are in Diamond Bank Plc, while the remaining accounts are with Union Bank Plc, First Bank Plc, Ecobank and Zenith Bank Plc.
The applicants had insisted before the court that the anti-graft agency obtained the forfeiture order by an improper use of the judicial process.
They told the court that the said interim forfeiture order, including a subsequent one that was issued on October 18, had since expired, with the EFCC, failing to establish a nexus between the applicants and any act of illegality.
In a six -paragraph affidavit deposed to by one Chinedu Maduba, Mrs. Jonathan and the firms admitted their ownership of the 16 bank accounts.
The applicants told the court that EFCC had before May 30 when it secured the forfeiture order, also filed a similar application that affected most of the parties, before Justice C.M.A. Olatoregun of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos in suit number FHC/L/CS/1342/2016 with same granted on October 10.
They alleged that EFCC suppressed the fact that it had earlier approached the Lagos Division of court for the same relief it applied for and secured from the court in Abuja.
“That by reason of these orders, the Applicants have been unable to operate their accounts as the banks who are in custody of their accounts have refused to honour any of the applicants’ instructions ostensibly because of the order of this honourable court”, the affidavit said.
In the meantime, the Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday ordered the temporary forfeiture of two additional properties in Lagos linked to a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.
The said properties, according to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), are valued at $4.76m.
The anti-graft agency listed them as Penthouse 21 building 5, Block C, 11th floor, Bella Vista Estate, Banana Island, Ikoyi and Penthouse 22, Block B, Admiralty Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Counsel for the EFCC, Mr. Anselem Ozioko, said the anti-graft agency reasonably suspected that the properties were procured with proceeds of alleged unlawful activities of Diezani.
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun ordered the temporary forfeiture of the properties after entertaining an ex parte application by the EFCC counsel.
Those listed as defendants on the face of the court papers are Diezani, Donald Amagbo, Schillenburg LLC, and Sequoyah Property Limited, as respondents.
The Tuesday’s temporary forfeiture came barely two months after the same Federal High Court ordered the permanent forfeiture of 58 houses linked to the ex-minister, who is currently in the United Kingdom, where is equally being probed for alleged corruption.
The 58 houses which were ordered by Justice Abdulaziz Anka on October 11, 2017 to be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government are scattered across Lagos and Port Harcourt.
The EFCC claimed that the ex-minister acquired them between 2011 and 2013 using front companies.
The value of the properties was put at $21,982,224.
Earlier in February, last year, Justice Muslim Hassan of the same court had ordered the forfeiture of a sum of $153,310,000 stashed away by the ex-minister in three commercial banks in the country.
Nation with additional report from Punch