Alleged N34bn Fraud: Ex-Bank Director Challenges Forfeiture Of N9bn

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The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos is set to hear the case of a former First Bank Director, Mr Dauda Lawal, who is challenging the forfeiture of a sum of N9 billion.

In documents put before the court, Mr Lawal claims that the Federal High Court in Lagos which ordered the forfeiture of the money to the Federal Government had no jurisdiction to do so.

The money, N9.08 billion is part of a larger sum of N23.4 billion and another $5 million (totalling about N34bn then), which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) linked to former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke.

The EFCC alleged that the sums were stolen by Mrs Alison-Madueke and several accomplices from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and stashed in three banks.

The commission made these arguments before Justice Muslim Hassan of the Federal High Court, Lagos while seeking the forfeiture of the monies and in February 2017.

Justice Hassan ordered the final forfeiture of the funds after ruling that no one had legitimate claims to the monies.

At the time, the judge said he was satisfied with the EFCC’s argument that the monies were proceeds of illegal activity.

However, the former bank boss in his sole application before the Court of Appeal is challenging the forfeiture of N9.08bn out of the money.

In his notice of appeal, Lawal contended that the judge erred in law by ordering the forfeiture and asked the appellate court to make an order to “set aside the judgment dated 16 February 2017 for being without jurisdiction and thereby a nullity.”

He also sought an order setting aside the forfeiture of the money which he said the EFCC obtained from him while he was being detained.

The former bank director urged the court to order the EFCC to return the sum to him.

In documents put in support of his application, he submitted that the forfeited money was not found in his possession as required by Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act.

He had earlier admitted receiving $25 million of the sum in the clear dispensation of his duties but insisted that he was coerced by the commission to further admit receiving a total of $65 million.

Lawal, therefore, sought a refund of the balance of $40m (about N9.08bn at the time) which he said he had to borrow from family and friends to pay while he was in EFCC custody.

He argued that his failure to appeal the forfeiture within time was due to his “apprehension that if he challenged the judgment whilst the investigation was ongoing, he would be further detained by the EFCC.”

The former bank official has, however, been charged alongside some others following the conclusion of the investigation by the EFCC.

When the matter came up for mention, the court adjourned further proceedings and told parties that a date for hearing would be communicated to them.

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