The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Friday named Mrs. Folashade Oke as the owner of Flat 7B, No. 13, Osborne Road, Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, where the sums of $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23,218,000 were recently recovered by the agency.
Folashade is the wife of the suspended Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayo Oke, whose agency had laid claim to the money.
According to the EFCC, Folashade made cash payment of $1.658m for the purchase of the flat between August 25 and September 3, 2015
She was said to have bought the property in the name of a company, Chobe Ventures Limited, to which she and her son, Master Ayodele Oke Junior, were directors.
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 company, 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.
Although, the EFCC said that Folashade made cash payment of $1.658m, the addition of the figures it said NIA DG’s wife made in tranches amounted to $1,703,700.
The EFCC on Friday tendered the receipt issued by Fine and Country Limited to Chobe Ventures Limited as an exhibit before the Federal High Court in Lagos, where it is seeking an order of final forfeiture of the recovered money to the Federal Government.
“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,” a counsel for the EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, told the court on Friday.
In an affidavit filed before the court, an inspector with the EFCC, Mohammed Chiroma, stated that “Chobe Ventures Limited is not into any business but was merely incorporated to retain proceeds of suspected unlawful activities of Mrs. Folashade Oke.”
While urging the presiding judge, Justice Muslim Hassan, to order the permanent forfeiture of the funds to the Federal Government, Oyedepo argued that the fact that Flat 7B, Osborne Towers was purchased in a “criminal” manner, made the N13bn recovered therein “extremely suspicious to be proceeds of unlawful acts.”
The lawyer noted that despite the newspaper advertisement of the initial order of April 13, 2017 temporarily forfeiting the money to the Federal Government, no one showed up in court on Friday to explain why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
Oyedepo also observed that Chobe Ventures Limited, in whose apartment the huge sums were recovered, did not come to court to challenge the forfeiture order, despite being served with the motion on notice at its registered address.
Oyedepo said the court papers were received at the stated address, which is also the house of the Okes, by one Bola, who signed for them on May 3, 2017.
“The failure of Chobe Ventures Limited, in whose custody these properties we are seeking to forfeit were found, failed to show cause before My Lord today why the property (money) should not be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria. Your Lordship should hold that Chobe Ventures Limited has admitted all the facts deposed to in our affidavit and order the final forfeiture of the property to the Federal Government,” Oyedepo said.
Earlier, the court heard an application by a private lawyer, Mr. Olukoya Ogungbeje, urging the court to suspend further action in the forfeiture proceedings pending the outcome of the Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo three-man panel constituted by President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate the claim by Oke that the money belongs to the agency.
Ogungbeje’s lawyers, Messrs Sanni Saheed and Yakub Eleto, contended that making a final forfeiture order on the money without the conclusion of the Osinbajo-led panel’s investigation would be going too far.
Besides, they argued that the EFCC had not discharged its onus of identifying the real owner of the money as required of it by Section 44(2)(k) of the constitution.
But Oyedepo, who described Ogungbeje as meddlesome, urged Justice Hassan to dismiss the lawyer’s application and award a heavy cost against him for seeking to merely waste the time of the court.
According to Oyedepo, Ogungbeje’s application was tantamount to an application for stay of proceedings, which he said Section 19(2) of the EFCC Act enjoined the judge to resist.
“I submit that coming to My Lord through the back door by way of this application is a violent abuse of the processes of this court. The application is standing in the way of justice and the applicant even lacks the locus standi to be a party in this suit,” Oyedepo said.
Justice Hassan adjourned till June 6, 2017 to either suspend action in the case if Ogungbeje’s application has merit or if found to lack merit, proceed to give judgment for the final forfeiture of the funds.