The Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday ordered the temporary forfeiture of $43,449,947 (about N13billion), N23, 218,000 million and £27,800 (about N10.6milion) cash found in Flat 7B, Osborne Towers, 16, Osborne Road, Ikoyi, Lagos.Justice Muslim Hassan ordered that the money be temporarily forfeited to the Federal Government until the owner shows up.The order is based on an ex-parte motion filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).The judge directed EFCC to advertise the forfeiture order in a newspaper so that anybody who owns the money can claim it within 14 days.The money will be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government should nobody claim it within the period.EFCC’s lawyer Rotimi Oyedepo, while moving the motion, said so far, no one has come forward to claim the money.He said even the property managers denied knowing who might have left the money there.The lawyer prayed Justice Hassan to order the money’s temporary forfeiture in line with Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Related Offences Act 2006.Justice Idris granted an order directing the commission to publish the order “for anyone interested in the property (money) to appear within 14 days to show cause as to why a final forfeiture order should not be made in favour of the Federal Government.”On how the money was recovered, Oyedepo said EFCC received an intelligence report that various sums of money were stashed in a flat in the building.“The intelligence was acted upon. On getting there, we executed a search warrant and recovered $43, 449,947, N23,218,000 and £27,800 in cash.“For security reasons, we could not bring the cash before my lord, but we have registered it with an exhibit keeper.
“Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Related Offences Act empowers my lord to order the interim forfeiture of a property to the Federal Government where the property is found to be unclaimed, or where it is found to be proceeds of an unlawful activity.“No one has approached the commission to claim these sums with reasonable evidence confirming the genuine origin of the money we’re seeking to forfeit in the interim.“Even the staff of AM Facilities who manage the property could not even give us the identity of the owner of the money surreptitiously kept in that apartment.“It is, therefore, my submission that the facts and circumstances of this case have their root tied to the provisions of Section 17 which my lord has the power to enforce pending when whoever has the mind to come and claim it shows up. That is our humble prayer,” Oyedepo said.Ruling, Justice Hassan granted EFCC’s prayers, saying: “Based on the grounds of the application, the affidavit and the written address, I hereby grant the application as prayed.”An EFCC source said the commission engaged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to mobilise counting machines to assist in determining the total haul.“This is a major breakthrough for this commission. We will not relent in recovering slush funds.“The whistle blowing policy has added value to the anti- graft war. Some of those who looted public funds have been avoiding banks.“They kept the cash at home and we are on their trail. Imagine what over N11 billion can do in the life of this nation, while the amount traced to private accounts sums up to N4 billion,” the source said.About N16 billion has been uncovered by the EFCC in the last few days in Lagos, including the N12,360,814,000 recovered and about N4 billion traced to private accounts.The Federal Government had last December 22launched a whistle blowing policy to expose fraud and other related crimes in the public and the private sectors.Section 17 (1) of the Advance Fee Fraud Act says: “Where any property has come into the possession of any officer of the Commission as unclaimed property, or any unclaimed property is found by any officer of the Commission to be in the possession of any other person, body corporate or financial institution, or any property in the possession of any person, body corporate or financial institution is reasonably suspected to be proceeds of some unlawful activity under this Act, the Money Laundering Act of 2004, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act of 2004 or any other law enforceable under the EFCC Act of 2004, the High Court shall upon application made by the Commission, its officers, or any other person authorised by it, and upon being reasonably satisfied that such property is an unclaimed property or proceeds of unlawful activity under the Acts stated in this subsection, make an order that the property or the proceeds from the sale of such property be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.”Justice Hassan adjourned until May 5 for hearing.The Nation