Economy

Patience Jonathan wants $5.7m, N2.4bn seized released

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday urged the Federal High Court in Lagos to order the final forfeiture of $5.7million and N2.4billion belonging to former First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan.

It said the money is reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime.

Moving an application for the final forfeiture, the EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, said Mrs. Jonathan did not earn the money legitimately.

But, Mrs. Jonathan, through her lawyer, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), said the money was not stolen.

He said it was part of gifts from friends, adding that nobody complained that their money was stolen.

Justice Mojisola Olatoregun on April 26, 2017, ordered the money’s temporary forfeiture based on an ex-parte application by the EFCC.

Mrs. Jonathan appealed, but the Court of Appeal last January 12 upheld the temporary forfeiture.

The Supreme Court on March 15 affirmed the Court of Appeal judgment.

It directed the appellant to return before Justice Olatoregun to show cause why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.

In an affidavit in support of the ex-parte originating summons, an EFCC operative, Musbahu Yahaha Abubakar, said Mrs. Jonathan opened a Skye Bank account on February 7, 2013.

“One Dudafa Waripamo Owei, who was the Senior Special Assistant to the former President, was one of the frequent depositors in the account.

“Another frequent cash depositor of funds reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities into the account is one Festus Iyoha, a steward at the State House, Abuja,” the deponent said.

The EFCC investigator said Iyoha made deposits with fictitious names.

Abubakar said between February 8, 2013, and January 30, 2015, $6,791,599.64 suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities was deposited into the account in cash.

He said Mrs. Jonathan dissipated part of the funds, leaving a balance of $5,731,173.55.

“If these funds are not forfeited in the interim, the operator of the account, Mrs. Dame Patience Jonathan, will fully dissipate it,” the investigator said.

The commission said the N2.4billion was found in an Ecobank Nigeria Ltd account numbered 2022000760 in the name of La Wari Furniture and Baths Ltd.

The EFCC said the “purported” signatory to the account was one Ada Ifegbu, with a telephone number belonging to one Esther Oba.

The EFCC operative said the N2.4billion “was substantially the naira equivalent of the United States dollars given to one Chima Nwafor John of Ecobank Nigeria Ltd by one Esther Oba at the Aso Rock Villa.”

He said it was John who contracted bureau de change operators to convert the money to naira and deposit it to La Wari Furniture and Baths’s account.

The company is the second respondent.

Urging the court to order the final forfeiture, Oyedepo said: “The $5million was not the first respondent’s legitimate earning.

“She was a public servant and a salary earner. The sums cannot be her legitimate income. We urge the court to agree with us and forfeit the sum to the Federal Government.”

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