Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court, Lagos, on Friday ordered the formal forfeiture of N449,597,000 (about N450 million) found by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in LEGICO Shopping mall, Victoria Island, Lagos to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The EFCC had on April 8 said it uncovered a large sum of suspected laundered money to the tune of N448,850,000 in the Shopping Plaza.
Mr. Aikawa had on April 19 ordered an interim forfeiture of the said money uncovered by the commission.
The order came following a motion ex-parte filed by Rotimi Oyedepo, a prosecutor with the EFCC pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act No. 14, 2006.
Mr. Aikawa in his ruling last month, ordered anyone interested in the money to appear before him at the next adjourned date to show reason why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
The judge also directed the commission to publish in any national daily for anyone to show cause within 14 days why the order for the final forfeiture should not be granted.
However, in his motion on notice at the resumed hearing on Friday, Idris Mohammed, counsel to the EFCC urged the court to issue a final order forfeiting the total sum of N449,597,000 to the federal government.
Mr. Mohammed, said “the sum is reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activity.”
In his ruling, Mr. Aikawa stated that “I have perused the motion on notice and as far as my records show, neither the respondent nor any other interested party has filed any affidavit or any other process to show course why the interim order should not be granted.”
“I have no other option but to grant the motion as prayed,” the judge continued.
“I hereby order that the sum of N449,597,000 found in the possession of the respondent which is believed to be proceeds of unlawful activity be finally forfeited to the Federal government of Nigeria.”
PREMIUM TIMES checks during a visit to the LEGICO plaza located at the 055 Nigerian Air Force Camp, LEGICO Barracks, however showed that the owner of Shop 64 where the huge sums were found is well known to his colleagues, and is, in fact, a regular face at the plaza.
A shop owner and Bureau de Change operator who requested anonymity said the owner of Shop 64 “is walking freely in this plaza and the government haven’t caught him yet.”
“People around here say that the said money belongs to a senator who siphoned his constituency’s money and wanted to change it to dollars before the money was discovered.
“Nobody in this plaza is clean and you will see that they won’t want to talk to you about this issue,” the shop owner said.