Justice Chuka Obiozor of a Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday ordered the permanent forfeiture to the Federal Government a $37.5m mansion located at Banana Island, Lagos which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission linked to embattled former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke. sums of sums of $2,740,197.96 and N84,537,840.70 realised as rents on the property should equally be forfeited to the Federal Government.
It would be recalled that the EFCC had on July 19, 2017, obtained a court order to temporarily seize the property located at Building 3, Block B, Bella Vista Plot 1, Zone N, Federal Government Layout, Banana Island Foreshore Estate, which is said to have 24 apartments, 18 flats and six penthouses.
The court had directed that the temporary forfeiture order be published in a newspaper and then adjourned till Monday for anyone interested in the property and funds to appear to convince the court why they should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
EFCC lawyer, lawyer Anselem Ozioko however, told the court that despite going the extra length to personally serve the second and third respondent in the case, Afamefuna Nwokedi, and a company, Rusimpex Limited, they did not show up in court to contest the forfeiture order.
“In summary, it appears as if they are not willing to contest this application,” Ozioko said.
“In the face of the publication, which I find in Exhibit B of the affidavit of compliance before me, and there being no responses from any interested party, I have no other option but to grant the orders as prayed,” Justice Obiozor ruled.
The EFCC had earlier told the judge that the Banana Island manson was reasonably suspected to have been acquired with proceeds of unlawful activities by Diezani.
The anti-graft agency said its investigations revealed that Diezani purchased the property sometimes in 2013 at the price of $37.5m, which she paid in cash.
According to the EFCC, the $37.5m was moved straight from Diezani’s house in Abuja and paid into the selller’s First Bank account in Abuja.
“Nothing could be more suspicious than someone keeping such huge amounts in her apartment.
“We are convinced beyond reasonable doubt because as of the time this happened, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke was still in public service as the Minister of Petroleum Resources,” EFCC lawyer, Ozioko sai
Listed as respondents in the forfeiture application were Diezani, a legal practitioner, Afamefuna Nwokedi, and a company, Rusimpex Limited.