The Federal Capital Territory High Court has cleared Aiteo Group Executive Vice Chairman Benedict Peters of illicit acquisition of assets allegations.
The court held that the allegations were baseless and that the assets were not liable to be forfeited to the Federal Government.
Justice Valentine Ashi, in a December 5 judgment, held: “From the material before me, the defendant (Peters) has a reasonable and verifiable means of livelihood and cannot be said to be living above means.
“In the absence of any specific offence and proof of commission of crime, the defendant legitimately and lawfully acquired the assets and properties, the subject matter of this suit.”
The listed assets include 58 Harley House, Marylebone Road, London worth£2,800,000; apartment 4, 5, Arlington Street, London worth £11,800,000; Flat 5, 83-86, Prince Albert Road, London worth£3,750,000, and other assets of Aiteo Energy Resources worth over $4.023billion.
Others are monies in account numbered 105277 in FBN Bank (UK) in the name of Mr. B and Mrs. N. Peters, monies in account (No 107127) in FBN Bank (UK) of Walworth Properties Ltd, and £36,674.7 held on behalf of defendant in the client account of Clyde and Co. LLP , London.
The rest are £40,620 held in a correspondent bank account at Ghana International Bank, London, and shares in Walworth Properties Limited, Rosewood Investments and Colinwood Limited.
The plaintiff, Moses Uyah, in a suit numbered FCT/HC/CV/ 0093/17, alleged that Peters acquired the assets fraudulently because he was unable to account for income or earnings from which such purchases could have been lawfully funded.
He asked the court not only to find that Peters’ acquired the properties illegally, but to hold that he lived above his means and that funds used acquire the assets were the proceeds of corrupt and illegitimate dealings.
The plaintiff asked the court to order the forfeiture of Peters’ assets to the Federal Government.
But, Peters produced evidence of his source of funds, including his business spanning over 25 years in the oil and gas industry.
He also provided evidence of funding from financial institutions which he invested over several years in his company, resulting in Aiteo Group’s considerable success.
Justice Ashi found that based on the evidence, Peters established that he had a credible and verifiable means of livelihood.
The court also held that he legitimately funded the acquisition of the properties identified in the proceeding
Dismissing the case, Justice Ashi ruled that the “said assets and properties having been legitimately acquired by the defendant cannot be forfeited to the Government under any circumstances.”
The judge made an order “restraining any person, security agency or authority from disturbing the defendant’s quiet enjoyment of his assets and properties having been found to be legitimately acquired.”
The judgment follows a similar ruling quashing money laundering charges and bribery of election officials against Peters.
In the suit numbered FCT/HC/CV/0091/17, the plaintiff, Chief Akimoju Jero, accused Peters and a firm, Northern Belt Oil & gas Company Limited, of offering $115million to electoral officers to alter the results of the 2015 presidential election.
The plaintiff also urged the court to hold that Peters was liable to prosecution for allegedly making political donations.
Dismissing the allegations, the court held: “The purported allegation of bribery of electoral officials, contrary to the provisions of Section 124 of the Electoral Act, though not proved by any iota of evidence against the defendants, is also duly discredited by the material evidence before the court such that the allegation cannot stand.
“The plaintiff’s case is lacking in merit and substance. It shall be and it is hereby accordingly dismissed.”