Recovered N13bn: Court orders forfeiture of Ikoyi flat

The Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered the temporary forfeiture of Flat 7B Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, where the sums of $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23,218,000 were discovered stashed away in iron cabinets and Ghana-must-go bags in April.

Justice Saliu Saidu ordered the forfeiture of the flat to the Federal Government on Thursday following an ex parte application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Upon making the interim forfeiture order, the judge gave any interested party in the property 14 days to appear before him to show the cause why it should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.

He ordered the EFCC to publish the forfeiture order in a national newspaper, to serve as a notice to any interested party.

Justice Saidu adjourned till November 30, 2017, for further hearing.

Joined as the only defendant in the ex parte application by the EFCC was Chobe Ventures Limited, said to be linked with Folashade Oke, the wife of dismissed Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayodele Oke.

The EFCC had earlier named Folashade as the owner of the flat.

The EFCC said it found out that Folashade made cash payment of $1, 658,000 for the purchase of the flat between August 25 and September 3, 2015.

She was said to have purchased the property in the name of a company, Chobe Ventures Limited, to which she and her son, Master Ayodele Oke Jnr., were directors.

The payment for the purchase of the flat was said to have been made to one Fine and Country Limited.

The EFCC stated that Folashade made the cash payment in tranches of $700,000, $650,000 and $353,700 to a Bureau de Change, Sulah Petroleum and Gas Limited, which later converted the sums into N360,000,000 and subsequently paid it to Fine and Country Limited for the purchase of the property.

In a 10-paragraph affidavit attached to its ex parte application, an operative of the EFCC, Musa Yusuf, said the anti-graft agency believed that the $1,658,000 used to purchase the property was Federal Government’s money which Ayodele allegedly fraudulently converted to his own while in office as NIA DG.

Yusuf said when EFCC operatives stormed the flat to recover the $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23,218,000 cash in April, they found, among other documents, an envelope addressed to “Ambassador and Mrs. Ayo Oke from Yemi and Omowale Dipeolu.”

He said investigation by the anti-graft agency revealed that “in late 2014, Mrs. Ayodele Folasade Oke contacted one Rawlings Ehumadu of Rawlings Ehumadu & Co for a serviced flat for her purchase.

“That the said Rawlings Ehumadu complied with his client’s instructions, locating Flat 7B Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, for Mrs. Ayodele Folasade Oke as suitable serviced flat.

“Rawlings Ehumadu of Rawlings Ehumadu & Co. contacted Fine & Country International Realty by making offer and counter-offer on behalf of Chobe Ventures Ltd. for the purchase of the property sought to be forfeited.

“That Mrs. Ayodele Folasade Oke showed interest in the property sought to be forfeited and further contacted one Alhajji Shehu Usman Anka to transfer the total sum of N374, 460,000 to Fine & County Realty International.

“That the said Alhaji Shehu Usman, who is a Bureau De Change operator, received the sum of $1,658,000 in cash from Mrs. Ayodele Folasade Oke, which sum was converted to naira and transferred to Fine & County International Realty.

“That Fine & County International Realty acknowledged the receipt of the sum of N360,000,000 from Chobe Ventures Ltd., being payment for the purchase of a four-bedroomed apartment, known as Flat 7B Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos.

“That Fine & County International Realty acknowledged the receipt of the sum of N9,450,000 from Chobe Ventures Ltd., being payment of the professional fee rendered to Chobe Ventures Ltd. for the acquisition of the property sought to be forfeited.

“That the sum of $1,658,000, which Mrs. Ayodele Folasade Oke gave in cash to Alhaji Shehu Usman Anka was part of funds belonging to the Federal Government which were fraudulently converted by Mr. Ayodele Oke while serving as the Director General of NIA.”

The EFCC lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, had, while praying for the permanent forfeiture of the funds recovered from the flat to the Federal Government, argued that the manner in which payment for the property itself was made was illegal.

He had said, “The circumstances leading to the discovery of the huge sums stockpiled in Flat 7B Osborne Towers, leaves no one in doubt that the act was pursuant to an unlawful activity.

“The very act of making cash payment of $1.6m without going through any financial institution by Mrs. Folashade Oke for the acquisition of Flat 7B Osborne Towers, is a criminal act punishable by the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Amendment Act. I refer My Lord to sections 1(a), 16(d) and 16(2)(b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Amendment Act.”

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