EFCC wants Patience Jonathan to forfeit $15m

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Dame Patience Jonathan

Eniola Akinkuotu and Ramon Oladimeji

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is
set to file an application in court seeking the total
forfeiture of $15,591,700, belonging to Dame
Patience Jonathan,

the wife of the immediate past
President, Goodluck Jonathan.
The money is currently lodged in the Skye Bank
account of four companies: Pluto Property and
Investment Company Limited; Seagate Property
Development & Investment Company Limited;
Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company
Limited and Avalon Global Property Development
Company Limited.
The EFCC had frozen the four accounts, which were
linked to a former Special Adviser to the President
on Domestic Affairs, Waripamowei Dudafa.

However, Jonathan’s wife had claimed in a sworn
affidavit that the money in the four accounts
belonged to her even though there is no paper
evidence to establish a link between her and the
companies.
She also urged the court to compel the EFCC to lift
the restriction on the accounts.
In a sudden twist, however, the anti-graft agency
arraigned the four companies on Thursday and the
companies pleaded guilty to money laundering
charges.
A senior EFCC official told one of our
correspondents that the anti-graft agency would
subsequently apply for the total forfeiture of the
funds.
He said, “The four companies, in whose accounts
the monies were lodged, have pleaded guilty to
money laundering. We are therefore filing an
application, seeking the complete and total
forfeiture of the money to the Federal Government.
“The $15,591,700 should go (be deposited in) into
the Treasury Single Account of the Federal
Government of Nigeria.”
On Thursday, the four accused companies pleaded
guilty to conspiring with Dudafa; a lawyer,
Amajuoyi Briggs; and a banker, Adedamola
Bolodeoku, to launder the sum of $15, 591,700 on
or about November 13, 2013.
The EFCC, while arraigning the seven accused
persons before a Federal High Court in Lagos on
Thursday, admitted to the court that the $15.6m
were proceeds of theft.
Though Dudafa, Briggs and Bolodeoku pleaded not
guilty to the amended 15 counts pressed against
them by the EFCC, the four companies, charged
along with them, owned up to committing the
offence.
The guilty plea was entered on behalf of Pluto,
Seagate, Trans Ocean and Avalon by one Friday
Davies, Agbo Baro, Bioghowri Frederick and Taiwo
Ebenezer, respectively.
The EFCC had since frozen the $15.6m found in the
four companies’ accounts with Skye Bank Plc by
placing a ‘No Debit Order’ on the four accounts.
But Patience had filed a fundamental rights
enforcement suit against the EFCC and the bank,
claiming that the money, which the EFCC said were
proceeds of theft, belonged to her.
Patience is also seeking damages against Skye
Bank in the sum of N200m for what she termed a
violation of her right to own personal property
under Section 44 of the 1999 Constitution.
But Patience’s suit against the EFCC and Skye
Bank has yet to be heard by any judge.
However, the EFCC arraigned Dudafa, Briggs,
Bolodeoku and the four companies before Justice
Babs Kuewumi on Thursday for money laundering
and conspiring to retain proceeds of theft.
The EFCC also alleged that the seven accused
persons conspired to forge Skye Bank mandate
cards, purporting that they were signed by Friday
Davies, Kola Fredrick, Taiwo Ebenezer and Agbo
Baro, to prejudice Skye Bank in their bid to launder
the $15.6m.
They were also accused of forging a Wema Bank
Corporate Account mandate card, purporting that it
was signed by Taiwo Ebenezer and Chima John to
prejudice Wema Bank.
The EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, told Justice
Kuewumi that Dufada, Briggs, Bolodeoku and the
four companies acted contrary to Section 1(2)(c) of
the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap. M17, Laws of
the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
But while the four companies pleaded guilty,
Dudafa, Briggs and Bolodeoku maintained that they
did not commit the offence.
Following the guilt plea by the companies,
Oyedepo told the court that he would like to review
the facts of the case by tendering documents to
prove the offence, for the court to decide their fate
but Justice Kuewumi said he would only entertain
the review of facts at a later date.
The lawyers, who appeared for Briggs and
Bolodeoku, Tochukwu Onuike and Joseph
Okobiemen, respectively, subsequently informed
the court that they had filed applications for the
bail of their clients, urging Justice Kuewumi to
admit their clients to bail in liberal terms.
However, Dudafa’s lawyer, Gboyega Oyewole, said
he did not file any application for his client’s bail
in the hope that Justice Kuewumi would allow the
accused person to continue to enjoy a N500m bail
granted him in another criminal case before Justice
Mohammed Idris of the same court.
Justice Kuewumi, however, turned down Oyewole’s
prayer, saying the case before Justice Idris was
different from the one before him.
He directed the lawyer to file a formal application
for Dudafa’s bail.
The judge, however, granted Briggs and Bolodeoku
a N250m bail each with one surety each in like
sum.
The accused were directed to deposit their
passports in the court’s custody pending the
conclusion of their trial.
The sureties, the court said, must be resident in
Lagos and must be owners of landed property in
any highbrow area, the Certificate of Occupancy of
which they were to deposit with the court.
The sureties were also to show evidence of tax
payment.
The court adjourned till September 27, 2016 for
commencement of trial.
In the suit filed by Patience, laying claim to the $
15m, which is the subject of prosecution of Dudafa
and others, one Sammie Somiari, who deposed to
an affidavit on behalf of Patience, claimed that
Dudafa helped Patience to open the bank accounts
in 2010.
According to him, Dudafa had, on March 22, 2010,
brought two Skye Bank officials to meet Patience
at home to open five accounts.
The deponent claimed that Patience was the sole
signatory to the accounts.
He, however, claimed that after the five accounts
were opened, Patience later discovered that Dudafa
opened only one of the accounts in her name while
the other four were opened in the names of
companies belonging to Dudafa.
Somiari added, “The applicant (Patience)
complained about this to Honourable Dudafa, who,
at his prompting and instance, promised to effect
the change of the said accounts to the applicant’s
name; and to effect this change, Honourable
Dudafa brought the said bank manager, Mr. Dipo
Oshodi, who purported to have effected the
changes. This was about April 2014.
“The applicant is not a director, shareholder or
participant in the companies named in the
aforementioned four accounts.
“The bank official, Mr. Dipo Oshodi, as it would
appear, did not effect or reflect the instruction of
the applicant to change the said accounts to her
name despite repeated requests of the applicant.”
In her reaction to the court proceedings on
Thursday, Patience said the four accused persons,
who pleaded guilty to money laundering charges
on behalf of the four companies linked her, were
mercenaries hired by the EFCC.
The ex-President’s wife stated this in a statement
on Thursday by her media aide, Chima Osuji.
She alleged that the EFCC presented four unknown
persons, who were not authorised by the
companies’ boards, to plead guilty on behalf of the
companies.
She said it was a ploy by the EFCC to ensure that
her hard-earned money was confiscated.
The ex-President’s wife argued that the EFCC failed
to comply with Section 477 (2) of the
Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, by
not presenting to the court on Thursday any letter
to show that the four persons were authorised by
the companies to represent them.
Patience added, “This is a clear evidence of the
desperation of the prosecution to pull down the
former First Lady and confiscate her hard-earned
money.
“It is an irony that it was the former First Lady who
went to court for the repatriation of her confiscated
money when she realised that the EFCC and its co-
travellers were playing politics with this issue after
she had come out publicly to say that the said
money belonged to her and that she had all
evidence to prove the sources of her money.
“Up until this very moment, the EFCC has refused
to interrogate or invite her for questioning.”

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