Granting the order, presiding judge made it permissible for property to be forfeited in a non-conviction based forfeiture process in accordance with law.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has secured a court order for final forfeiture of N1.7 billion traced to a new generation bank with no known depositor to the Federal Government.
The court order followed the absence of refutal of the fact presented before it by the anti-graft agency in its application dated September 11, 2018.
The EFCC in suit no FHC/L/ CS/1349/2018 had approached a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos to seek the final order of forfeiture of the sums of N1, 260, 000, 000.00, $327, 132.35, 167.85 euro and 157.00 euro suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities to the Federal Government.
EFCC had joined the bank and an electronic company as respondents in the suit.
Granting the order, the presiding judge, Justice (Prof) Chuka Austine Obiozor noted that Section 44 (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) made it permissible for property to be forfeited in a non-conviction based forfeiture process in accordance with the law.
According to Justice Obiozor, “the key point to underscore here is that the commission has a duty to demonstrate prima facie proof before the court to discharge the onus of proof on it. Thereafter, the evidential burden of asserting the contrary, namely that the properties concerned are not proceeds of unlawful activity shifts to the respondent.
“Now, I have carefully appraised the affidavit in support of the motion for the final forfeiture, which is not controverted.
I note that the position of the law is that absence of refutal of the facts therein by the respondents, tantamount to admission on their parts of the depositions.”
He also pointed out that the respondents neither filed any response nor participated in the proceedings in spite of proof service of the originating motion on notice and hearing notice.
Although the presiding judge said that he was unmindful of the principle that the fact that an action was not opposed would not justify the court’s misapplication of the law, expressed satisfaction that the anti-graft agency succeeded in establishing a prima facie case in keeping with established principles.
“In the final analysis and for the reasons adduced above, by order under the hand of this court the sums of money, to wit: N1, 260, 000, 000.00, $327, 132.35, 167.85 euro; and 157.90 euro found by the commission in the custody of the respondent, being sums reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities captured in account numbers 5133316817, 2100000477, 2100000446, 2100000484, 2100000491, 2100000453, 2100000460, 5100000499 and 5100005002 be and are here by forfeited to the Government of the Federation of Nigeria,” he ruled.