The Federal High Court, Abuja, has ordered the final forfeiture of property and cash, suspected proceeds of crime, linked to a retired Air Force Chief, Air Vice Marshal, Saliu Atwodi and his wife, Winnie.
Justice Emeka Anwuli Chikere, who gave the judgement on Wednesday, held that the EFCC proved beyond reasonable doubt that the property and said amount are proceeds of crime as defined by the Money Laundering Prohibition Act of 2011.
The judge noted that, in the absence of any objection to the notice of interim forfeiture published for interested parties to show cause why the assets should not be finally forfeited, the property and cash now belong to the Federal Government of Nigeria..
The property measuring about 57933.69 square metres, controlled by Vector Integrated Services Limited, is located at No 3004 Cadastral Zone E05, Aviation Village District in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.
The cash recovered are $228,428 and N120,546,042.02.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which prosecuted Atawodi, had filed an application for the forfeiture, pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, No14, 2006.
Atawodi was a former Chairman of the Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Safety and Security (PICOMSS).
PICOMSS received its funding from federal government agencies like NIMASA, NPA, NNPC and ONSA.
The commission had given details of how the retired Air Force chief allegedly syphoned state’s funds, using his wife, who was a manager with Union Bank of Nigeria Plc between 1982 and 2015.
For instance, “between December, 2010 and October, 2011, a total sum of N12,902,833,200.00 was paid to the Committee (PICOMSS) by ONSA.
“As the Chairman of PICOMSS, the 1st respondent was a signatory to all the bank accounts of PICOMSS in Union Bank Plc, Zenith Bank Plc, Oceanic Bank Plc (Now Eco Bank Plc) and Skye Bank Plc (now Polaris Bank).
“By a letter dated 12th November, 2010 and signed by the 1st respondent on behalf of PICOMSS, a contract for the sum of $32,337,163.00 was awarded to Xanatos Limited by PICOMSS.
“Xanatos accepted the award of the contract and the agreement was reduced into writing between PICOMSS and Xanatos Limited.
“Pursuant to the said contract, PICOMSS paid a total sum of N4,975,190,180.00 to Xanatos Limited between November, 2010 and October, 2011.
“After the first payment of the sum of N600,000,000.00 to Xanatos Ltd by PICOMMS, the company transferred the sum of N300,000,000.00 to the 2nd respondent’s company, Auswee Investment Ltd in Union Bank on 20th December, 2010 and another N50,000,000.00 on 7th January, 2011.
“The said Union Bank account of Auswee Investment Ltd was opened on 21St December, 2010 and received the above stated N300, 000, 000.00 payment as its first credit.”
According to EFCC, the Union Bank Plc account of Auswee Investment Ltd was opened in the Maitama Branch of Union Bank whose branch was under the administrative control of the 2nd respondent as the bank’s employee.
“However, the sums of N120,546,042.02 and $228,428.16 sought to be forfeited are standing as investment in favour of the 2nd respondent in ARM Investment Managers.
“Around the period in which the 1st respondent made the cash investments with the Mohammed Jubrin, a total cash withdrawal of N917,389,500.00 was inexplicably made from PICOMSS bank accounts in the following manner: (a) cash withdrawal of N733,889,500 between 22/3/11 to 28/09/11 from the Union Bank account No. 001057733 (b) cash withdrawal of N183,500,000 between 1/9/11 and 29/9/11 from the Zenith Bank Account No. 1012681209.
“As a former public officer, the 1st respondent failed and refused to declare his assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau either while in service or upon leaving office.
“As a banker, the 2nd respondent never declared her assets despite operating numerous bank accounts in her name, fictitious names as well as corporate names in Fidelity Bank, where funds running into billions of naira were deposited into the accounts (in local and foreign currencies, while she was in the employment of the bank”, the EFCC had said.