Court voids forfeiture of properties wrongly linked to Diezani

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The Federal High Court in Abuja has vacated its order of interim forfeiture made in respect of two London properties that were wrongly linked to a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke.

The two properties are Flat 5, Parkview, 83-86, Prince Albert Road, London; and Flat 58, Harley House, Marylebone Road, London.

The court had on June 29, 2016 ordered that the two properties, alongside 17 others, should be temporarily forfeited to the Federal Government.

Justice Binta Nyako made the interim forfeiture order following an ex parte application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which told the court that the properties were reasonably suspected to have been acquired by Diezani with proceeds of fraud.

However, the Chief Executive Officer of Aiteo Group, Benedict Peters, approached the court, contending that three of the properties belong to his companies.

In an application by his lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Peters explained that, “The applicant is the owner of the said property, which was on the 5th day of April registered in the English Land Registry in its name, Rosewood Investment Limited, and that the respondent (EFCC) merely suspected that the properties mentioned above belong to the said Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke and without any investigation included them among properties purported to belong to her as proceeds of crime, which is contrary to the case.”

In a ruling last Friday, Justice Nyako agreed with him and vacated the order of interim forfeiture made in respect of the two London properties.

Justice Nyako, in her ruling, noted that Justice Musa of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory had on December 5, 2017, while giving final judgment in a suit marked, FCT/HC/CV/0093/17, “declared that  these said properties, amongst others, having being legitimately acquired by the defendant, they cannot be forfeited to the government under any circumstances.”

Justice Nyako said since Justice Musa and herself were judges of coordinate jurisdiction, she could not sit on appeal on Justice Musa’s judgment.

“The order of interim forfeiture that was made in this case cannot override or supersede an order of final judgment of a court of coordinate jurisdiction,” Justice Nyako held.

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