The Delta State Government failed on Friday in its bid to claim the $15 million allegedly offered as bribe by former governor James Ibori to officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
A Federal High Court (FHC) in Abuja ordered that the money, estimated at N4.6bn be forfeited to the Federal Government.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole, in a judgment held that the earlier denial by Ibori that he owned the money, and the failure of Delta State to prove that the fund was removed from its treasury, qualified the money as an “unclaimed property.”
The judge further held that in view of the circumstances surrounding the case, where people were reluctant to openly claim its ownership, the money qualified to be forfeited to the Federal Government “as fund derived from unlawful act,” as stipulated under the Money Laundering and EFCC Acts 2004.
The judge wondered why no one claimed the money between April 25 and 26, 2007 when EFCC said the money was offered its officials by Ibori and July 27, 2012 when the FG advertised in a national daily that the fund was to be forfeited.
Justice Kolawole, who dubbed the case – “the unclaimed $15m scandal,” – queried why the Delta State government waited until a July 27 advertorial published by the FG, before it decided to claim ownership of the money.
The EFCC had in April 2007 accused Ibori of offering its then Chairman, Nuhu Ribadu and some others officials $15 million bribe in a bid to stop his prosecution.