Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Wednesday, ordered the permanent forfeiture of N2.24 billion found and recovered from a former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adesola Amosu (retd.) by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to the Federal Government.
The sum of N190.8 million recovered from Air Commodore Olugbenga Gbadebo, a former Director of Finance and Budget, Nigerian Air Force, NAF, who is standing trial along with Amosu for a N21 billion arms deal fraud, was also ordered forfeited to the Federal Government.
Also forfeited was the sum of N101 million recovered from Solomon Enterprises, a company linked to Amosu.
The court had, in 2018, ordered a temporary forfeiture of the monies to the Federal Government, following an ex parte application filed by the Commission.
Justice Olatoregun had also directed the EFCC to publish the interim forfeiture order in The Punch and The Nation newspapers for the respondents or anyone interested in the funds to show cause why they should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
Following the publication of the interim forfeiture order in the newspapers, the EFCC had applied to the court seeking the final forfeiture of the various sums of money.
Ruling on the application Wednesday, Justice Olatoregun held that:
“Upon examination of the two applications asking that the interim orders be set aside, dated July 28, 2018, from the first respondent and the interested party, I found no reason to set aside the orders.
“The applications are hereby dismissed. The only conclusion I can reach is that the funds are proceeds of unlawful activity. The affidavits disclose no reason why the order of final forfeiture should not be made.”
Justice Olatoregun ordered that the forfeited funds should be paid into the Federal Government’s Treasury Single Account, TSA, within 14 days, and that the EFCC must file an affidavit to show compliance.
Justice Olatoregun also rejected the argument of the defence counsel that the N22.8 billion fraud charges against Amosu and others were still pending before the court and that the forfeiture order would foist a fait accompli on their clients should they not be found guilty.
Justice Olatoregun, however, said the forfeiture proceedings were an “action in rem” and a non-conviction based forfeiture.
The Judge further held that: “The requirements for the two proceedings are different and distinct. The case (forfeiture) can go in the face of the criminal proceedings.”
“In a forfeiture proceeding, evidential burden shifts to the respondents to prove that they obtained the money lawfully, which they failed to do,” the trial judge added.