The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has set aside its order of interim forfeiture made against two properties of former Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki.
Justice Mohammed Liman also dismissed an application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission seeking final forfeiture of the properties to the Federal Government.
The properties are located at 17 and 17A MacDonald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos State.
In his judgment, Justice Liman held that the essence of an interim order of forfeiture is to preserve the property from being dissipated by the suspect and the burden is on the applicant, that is the EFCC, to satisfy the Court that the property is a proceed of unlawful or illegal activity under the corruption laws.
The Court however found that the EFCC had in its affidavit in support of its application for final forfeiture stated that the properties sought to be forfeited were purchased with a personal loan Senator Saraki obtained from Guaranty Trust Bank.
The Court agreed with the counsel to the former senate president, Kehinde Ogunwumiju (SAN) that the burden of proof for final forfeiture is on the preponderance of evidence and that the EFCC had failed to show that the monies used to purchase the property were from the Kwara State government house account.
The court was also not satisfied that Senator Saraki had paid off the loan used to purchase the property.
“The evidence of the transactions presented by the Applicant was in respect of transactions made after he had purchased the property and the proceeds used for the purchase were legal, that is loans”.
In the final analysis, the Court held that the EFCC failed to prove that it was entitled to the relief of final forfeiture of the properties. Justice Liman accordingly dismissed the application and vacated the interim forfeiture order it made on 21st October 2019.
This judgment comes after counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Mr. Nnaemeka Omewa, Esq. and counsel to Senator Saraki, Mr. Kehinde Ogunwumiju, SAN had adopted their respective written addresses for and against the making of the final forfeiture order sought by the EFCC against Senator Saraki’s properties.
In moving the application for the final forfeiture of the properties, counsel to the applicant, Nnaemeka Omewa, told Justice Mohammed Liman, that the properties were acquired with a loan obtained from Guaranty Trust Bank and paid back by money suspected to have been diverted from the coffers of the Kwara State government.
The counsel specifically said that “There are written statements from some officials of the Kwara State government on how the money was taken from the coffers of the state government and used to pay back the loan,”.
The EFCC, therefore, asked the court to look at the merit of its case, all the exhibits attached, and make an order permanently forfeiting the properties to the Federal Government.
The Former Senate President through his counsel Kehinde Ogunwumiju, SAN, however, asked the court to reject the application by the EFCC.
The counsel argued that the EFCC has not been able to prove that the money used to pay back the loan was acquired by any illegal activity.
He also told the court that the EFCC had litigated on the same properties before the Code of Conduct Tribunal all the way to the Supreme Court and had lost.
The counsel then asked the court to dismiss the EFFC’s suit seeking the final forfeiture of the properties and to instead rule in favour of the Former Senate President.