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Alleged N3.5bn Paris Club Fraud: Supreme Court Delivers Judgment June 7

The Supreme Court of Nigeria, Abuja has reserved judgment till June 7, 2024  the final forfeiture suit  of N1,222,384,857.84 (One Billion, Two Hundred and Twenty Two Million, Three Hundred and Eighty Four Thousand, Eight Hundred and Fifty Seven Naira, Eighty Four Kobo) brought before it by  Melrose General Services Limited.

The appellant is challenging the judgment of the Court of Appeal ordering the forfeiture of the money to the Federal Government of Nigeria,  being proceeds of an unlawful activity in the Paris Club fund involving Melrose General Services Limited.

At the resumed session of the court on Thursday, March 14, 2024,  counsel to the appellant,  Kehinde Ogunwumiju informed the apex court of a motion seeking the setting aside of the judgment of the Court of Appeal on the premise that the money involved in the forfeiture suit is  not a  proceed of any unlawful activity but payment for a contractual and consultancy agreement. He prayed that the decision of the appellant  court on the forfeiture be reversed.

However, counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ekele Iheanacho,  informed the court of his counter -affidavit dated March 11, 2024, praying the court to adopt his brief of argument and dismiss the appeal of the appellant

“My Lords, we seek the leave of your noble Lordships to undertake a brief overview of the concept of forfeiture granted by the two courts below in a bid to drive home the 1st respondent `s case. There are generally two types of forfeitures used to recover the proceeds and instrumentalities of crimes. They share the same objective, namely the forfeiture to the state of the proceeds and instrumentalities of crime. Both share common two-fold rationales”,  he said.

Arguing further,  he stressed that, “recall that appellant filed his notice of appeal against the well-considered judgment of the Federal High Court which was equally dismissed by the Court of Appeal on May 31, 2019, having found that the appellant failed to show that the said funds are not proceeds of crime.

“Further to the background of the matter, the EFCC carried out investigations which revealed among others the sum of N3.5bn was fraudulently paid to the appellant to carry out a consultancy job for the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF,   under the guise that the appellant carried out a consultancy job for the NGF entitling it to the money when it  did not do any such work. The appellant made several withdrawals within a short time leaving N1,222,384,857.84 before the EFCC intervened.

“Further investigation led to the recovery of an additional sum of N220m which the appellant had paid to WASP Networks Ltd and Thebe Wellness Services”.

After listening to all the submissions, the five-man panel of the apex court  reserved judgment in the matter till June 7, 2024.

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