Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has complied with the judgment of a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) directing it to remove the name of a billionaire businessman and Founder of AITEO Group, Mr. Benedict Peters from its wanted list.
Although there was no official confirmation from the EFCC, a top lawyer who participated in the case confided with Daily Sun that his client’s name had been de-listed from the wanted list of the Commission.
The Agency had, prior to the court action, published the name of the business mogul on its official website among the list of Wanted Persons.
However, delivering judgment in the suit filed by Peters against the anti- graft agency over the issue, Justice Othman Musa, sitting in Bwari division of the Court ordered the anti corruption agency to immediately remove his name from their wanted persons list published on the Commission website.
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The Commission had on August 15, 2016, the EFCC declared Mr.Benedict Peters wanted in connection with an ongoing investigation without first following all the laid down procedures which led Peters to approach the High Court to seek redress for the injustice done to him .
In his judgment delivered on the 22nd of March 22, 2018, Justice Musa agreed that the EFCC had powers to declare somebody wanted but that it must be done in strict compliance with the rule of law and order of the court and since the action was done in violation of the provisions of the law thereby hurting and infringing on the rights of Mr. Benedict peters, the judge declared the declaration of Peters as a wanted person/the uploading of his data on the website of the EFCC as unconstitutional and void.
The judge ordered EFCC to remove the name of the businessman from their website where wanted persons list are uploaded immediately.
Already the development has attracted reactions from individuals and civil society groups who applauded President Muhammadu Buhari, Attorney General of the Federation Abubakar Malami (SAN) and the EFCC Chairman Ibrahim Magu for towig on the path of the law.
Before the judgment, the Commission had in a statement signed by its spokesman, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, said that Peters was wanted for criminal conspiracy, diversion of funds and money laundering.
The statement read in part, “Dark-complexioned Peters is wanted in connection with a case of criminal conspiracy , diversion of funds and money laundering. He hails from Abakaliki Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. His last known address is 8B Agodogba Avenue, Parkview Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos.”
Mr. Peters allegedly played a role in the $115 million (N23 billion) bribe led by former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, during the build-up to the 2015 election.
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Some of the money, according to an EFCC official, was said to have originated from some oil companies.
The official disclosed that Northern Belt Gas Company Limited allegedly gave $60m to Fidelity Bank on behalf of Diezani.
The EFCC official said,“We have launched investigations into the companies that gave Diezani money in form of kickbacks. About $60m came from Northern Belt Gas Company Limited. We have not been able to ascertain the directors of the company. However, we found out that Mr. Benedict Peters is the sole signatory to the account at Fidelity Bank.
“All attempts to get him have proved abortive. We currently do not know where he is and he is hardly ever in one place because he has a private jet.”