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First Bank Plc ED, Dauda Lawal, Can Not Deny Knowledge Of Source Of N9.08 Billion-EFCC Lawyer

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Like a ghost of old almost forgotten, the deed of yesterday has come home to roast.

A Federal High Court in Lagos was informed on Tuesday that an Executive Director of First Bank of Nigeria Limited (FBN), Mr. Dauda Lawal, laundered funds on behalf of the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.

The counsel representing the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, made the revelations while responding to a counter-affidavit submitted by Lawal.

Lawal is seeking to discharge an interim forfeiture order for the sum of N9.08 billion.

Justice Muslim Hassan had on January 6, issued an interim order of forfeiture of the said sum to the federal government, following an ex parte application by the anti-graft agency seeking similar relief.

The EFCC had initiated the ex parte application seeking an interim order for the temporary forfeiture to the federal government of the sum, which it claimed was linked to Alison-Madueke.

The court had also issued 14 days to any interested party to appear and prove the legitimacy of the monies, failing which the funds would be permanently forfeited to the federal government.

At the resumed hearing of the case yesterday, Mr. Charles Adeogun announced appearance for Lawal who was joined as the respondent in the suit.

On the other hand, Oyedepo announced his appearance for the EFCC.

He informed the court that in line with its interim orders of January 6, the EFCC had served same on Lawal.

He also informed the court that the order was also published in the Independent Newspaper of January 12, in compliance with the orders of the court.

In response, the counsel to Lawal, (Adeogun) confirmed the position, but added that he had filed a counter-affidavit deposed to by Lawal, challenging the said forfeiture order.

Arguing his application, he urged the court to issue an order, directing a refund of the sum of N9.08 billion to his client on the grounds that the amount was obtained by coercion.

He argued that before such forfeiture order can be made, two essential elements must be satisfied, namely: “That the property in question is unclaimed, and that such property or funds form proceeds of an unlawful act.”

He said: “We became aware of the forfeiture order when the interim order was served on us. My client was never confronted with these sets of facts during his incarceration at the EFCC.

“After the service of the order, I requested for the statement of my client to the commission, but same was never given to me.”

He argued that his client admitted having received the sum of $25 million in clear dispensation of his duties, but was coerced by the commission to further admit to receiving a total of $65 million.

According to him, the sum of $40 million was therefore taken as an over draft from his bank to offset the alleged extra sum.

He therefore urged the court to order the immediate refund of the sum to his client.

In his response, Oyedepo submitted that the tenure of Section 17 of the Advanced Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act makes a property which is reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime, forfeitable to the federal government.

He queried: “Going by the facts and circumstances of this particular case, can it be said that the sum of N9.08 billion, which is the naira equivalent of $40 million, was not reasonably suspected to form the proceeds of a crime?”

He argued that Paragraph 4 of the applicant’s reply affidavit showed a meeting of the minds of some staff of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as well as the respondent to launder funds.

“My Lord, Paragraph 4 of our reply affidavit shows a meeting of the minds of one Gbenga Komolafe, former Group MD (sic), Crude Oil Marketing Division, NNPC; Prince Haruna Momoh, former Group MD Petroleum Product Marketing Company; Umar Farouk Ahmed, Group MD, Nigerian Product Marketing Company, as well as Lawal, to launder funds on behalf of former petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke.”

According to Oyedepo, “It will amount to contesting the obvious for Lawal to argue that he had no knowledge of the said sums.

Oyedepo argued that it was uncommon for a law enforcement agency like the EFCC to detain a person in its custody in perpetuity without an order of the court, adding that the statement of Lawal was lawfully obtained.

“The respondent was duly cautioned before he voluntarily made his statement at the commission and his lawyer even appended his signature further attesting to the fact that the statements were obtained voluntarily.

“So having freely volunteered a statement, he cannot urge my lord not to attach full probative value to his statement.

“I submit that the appropriate order in the circumstances is for the court to order a final forfeiture of the sum of N9.08 billion already surrendered by the respondent to the federal government. I urge the court to so hold,” he said.

After listening to the submissions of both counsel, Justice Hassan fixed February 16 for judgment.

Culled: Thisday

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