The Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday refused to order the forfeiture of $15.5million found in the accounts of companies belonging to a former Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Waripamo Dudafa.
What this implies is that former First lady Patience Jonathan could still have her money back if she has oprove that the money was earned legally.
Justice Babs Kuewumi convicted the companies after a review of the facts of the case by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFFC) lawyer Mr Oyedepo Rotimi.
The companies, on September 15, pleaded guilty to laundering $15,591,700 (about N5billion) when they were arraigned.
They are: Pluto Property and Investment Company Ltd (represented by Friday Davis), Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Ltd (represented by Agbor Baro), Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Ltd (represented by Dioghowori Frederick) and Avalon Global Property Development Ltd (represented by Taiwo Ebenezer)
Following the companies’ conviction, Rotimi prayed the court to order the forfeiture of the money to the Federal Government.
“Having found them guilty, the court should make a consquential order that the money should be forfeited to the Federal Government,” he said.
But, the judge said he would hand down a sentence on the companies after the trial of the others who pleaded not guilty in the charge.
Justice Kuewumi said: “The ownership issue is still pending. There’s also a pending suit on the matter.”
Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s wife, Patience, is claiming the monies in the companies’ accounts as hers.
The companies were arraigned along with Dudafa, a lawyer, Amajuoyi Briggs and a banker, Adedamola Bolodeoku.
Dudafa, Briggs and Bolodeoku, however, pleaded not guilty to the 17-count charge.
While reviewing the facts, Rotimi said the money was stolen from the State House, Abuja.
He said: “EFCC received an intelligence report showing vividly that the fourth to seventh defendants retained proceeds of crime.
“ Our investigations showed that Fetus Iyoha admitted receiving the fund from the first defendant. Iyoha is a domestic staff at the State House.
“He admitted that funds credited into the accounts were given to him from the State House.”
Rotimi said Iyoha paid $3,096,377.38 into Pluto’s account; paid $3,410,534.71 into Seagate’s account, paid $3,765,711.87 into Trans Oceans’ account, and paid $250,000 into Avalon Global’s accout.
All the accounts, EFCC said, are domiciled in Skye Bank Plc.
The judge admitted the accounts statements in evidence. He also admitted their mandate cards, certificates of incorporation and statements made to EFCC by the companies’ representatives.
Justice Kuewumi held that the prosecution proved the allegations against the companies beyond reasonable doubt, especially after they pleaded guilty to the crime.
“I am satisfied that the prosecution has proved its case. I’ll exercise my discretion to suspend sentence until conclusion of trial,” the judge held.
EFCC said the accused persons conspired on November 13, 2013 in Lagos to launder $15,591,700.
It said the defendants “reasonably ought to have known that the funds form part of the proceeds of an unlawful act”.
Seagate Property, Dudafa, Bolodeoku and Sompre Omiebi (said to be at large) were accused of indirectly retaining $1,094,500 through a Skye Bank Plc account (2110002207) between November 14 and 19, 2013. EFCC said the money “forms part of an unlawful act to wit: stealing.”
They were also accused of indirectly retaining $1,200,000 through the Skye Bank account between January 21 and December 19, 2014; as well as $1,349,700 through the same account between March 31 and May 20, 2015, among others.
Justice Kuewumi adjourned until December 14 for trial.