The Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday ordered a former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adesola Amosu (retd.), to permanently forfeit to the Federal Government a sum of N2.2bn found by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in his possession.
A former NAF’s Director of Finance and Budget, Air Commodore Olugbenga Gbadebo, was equally ordered to permanently forfeit a sum of N190,828,978.15 recovered from him to the Federal Government.
Also forfeited was a sum of N101m recovered from Solomon Enterprises, a company linked to Amosu.
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun ordered that the forfeited funds should be paid into the Federal Government’s Treasury Single Account, adding that the order must be complied with within 14 days and the EFCC must file an affidavit to show compliance.
The judge said having looked at the application brought before her for the forfeiture of the sums, she saw no reason why Amosu, Gbadebo and Solomon Enterprises should not be ordered to permanently forfeit the money to the Federal Government.
She said she agreed with the EFCC that the funds were proceeds of criminal activities, holding that, “They (the defendants) failed to provide any facts as to the level of probability to ascertain if the funds were obtained unlawfully.”
The EFCC had last year secure an interim order temporarily forfeiting the funds to the Federal Government.
The anti-graft agency after publishing the interim forfeiture orders in the newspapers, subsequently applied to the court for the final forfeiture of the rules.
Ruling on the application on Wednesday, Justice Olatoregun held, “Upon examination of the two applications asking that the interim orders be set aside, dated July 28, 2018, from the first respondent and the interested party, I found no reason to set aside the orders. The applications are hereby dismissed.
“The only conclusion I can reach is that the funds are proceeds of unlawful activity.
“The affidavits disclose no reason why the order of final forfeiture should not be made.”
In ordering the permanent forfeiture of the funds to the Federal Government, Justice Olatoregun rejected the argument of the defence counsel that the N22.8bn fraud charges against Amosu and others were still pending before the court and that the forfeiture order would foist a fait accompli on their clients should they not be found guilty.
Justice Olatoregun said the forfeiture proceedings were an “action in rem” and a non-conviction based forfeiture.
“The requirements for the two proceedings are different and distinct,” she held.
She emphasised that in a forfeiture proceedings, evidential burden shifts to the respondents to prove that they obtained the money lawfully, which she said they failed to do.
“The case (forfeiture) can go in the face of the criminal proceedings,” she said.