Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday ordered the total forfeiture of the N449.6million recently found in an abandoned Bureau De Change shop on Victoria Island, Lagos.
The forfeiture followed an application by the counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), I. Mohammed, on May 17 brought pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act No. 14, 2006, Section 44 (2)K of the 1999 constitution.
The court had earlier on April 19 ordered the temporary forfeiture of the money based on an ex-parte application by the EFCC.
He directed the commission to advertise the order in a newspaper so that the money’s owner might claim it.
However,an EFCC investigator, Moses Awolusi, told the court that Shop LS64 at Legico Shopping Plaza was not opened for two years.
He said the money was found on April 7 in several Ghana must go sacks.
The EFCC, he said, recovered the cash following intelligence about one Mohammed Tauheed.
Tauheed allegedly conspired with the shop’s owner to launder the money.
The EFCC said the suspect claimed he received the money from a serving government official whose name the commission refused to disclose.
The commission said the official is serving in the Muhammadu Buhari administration, but did not name the person for what it termed “security reasons”.
EFCC’s lawyer, Idris Mohammed, said yesterday that the temporary forfeiture order was advertised on May 11 and that Tauheed was also served with the motion.
He urged the judge to order the final forfeiture of the money since nobody claimed it.
Granting the application, Justice Aikawa held: “This court ordered, among others, the respondent (Tauheed) and any other interested party to show cause, within 14 days, why the interim forfeiture of N449,597,000 should not be made final.
“As far as my record shows, neither the respondent nor any other interested party has filed any affidavit or any other process to show cause why the interim order should not be made final.
“In the instant case, the respondent has, additionally, not filed any process in response to the motion on notice.
“In the circumstances, I have no option, but to grant the application as prayed.
“Accordingly, I hereby order that the sum of N449,597,000 found in possession of the respondent, which sum is reasonably suspected to be proceeds of an unlawful activity, be finally forfeited to the Federal Government.”