No Reprieve For Patience Jonathan, As Court Orders Interim Forfeiture Of $5.8M
Reprieve may not yet have being in sight for the wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Dame Patience Jonathan as the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos today, ordered a temporary forfeiture of her $ 5,845,316.66 domiciled with Skye Bank Plc and another N2,421,953,522.78 domiciled with Ecobank Nigeria PLC.
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun granted the order of temporary forfeiture consequently upon an exparte application filed by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission(EFCC).
In the motion exparte application, which Dame Patience Jonathan and a company, LA Wari Furniture and Baths Limited were made defendants, the anti-graft agency asked the court for an interim order of forfeiture of the sum of $5,842,316.66 found by the commission in account number 2110001712 domiciled with Skye Bank PLC in the name of Dame Patience Jonathan which sum is reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activity.
The commission also asked for an order of interim forfeiture of the sum of N2,421,953,522,78 found by the commission in account number 2022000760 domiciled with Ecobank Nigeria Limited in the name of LA Wari Furniture and Baths Limited which sum is reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activity.
The commission also sought for an order directing the publication of the order in any National newspaper for the respondents or anyone interested in the property sought to be forfeited to appear before the court within 14 days of the publication to show cause why a final order of forfeiture of the monetary properties should not be made in favour of the Federal Government.
In the affidavit filed in support of the motion, EFCC said it received an intelligence report that funds suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities were warehoused in both banks and that it analysed the reports and found it worthy of investigation.
The commission said its investigation revealed that Mrs Jonathan on February 7,2013 opened an account number 2110001712 with Skye Bank and upon opening the account, several huge cash deposit in United State dollars were made into the account.
It was further averred in the affidavit that one Dudufa Warpamo Owei, who was the Senior Special Assistant to former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was one of the frequent depositors to the account.
The agency added that another frequent cash depositor of funds reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities in the said account is one Festus Iyaha Isidahomen, a steward at the State House Abuja. That the Festus Isidahomen Iyaha was also making deposits with fictitious names..
It was further averred that between February 8, 2013 and January 30, 2015, the sum of $6,791,599.64. (Six millions seven hundred and ninety one thousand, seven hundred and five hundred and ninety nine United States dollars,sixty four cent) suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities were deposited into the account in cash..
The commission added that the former first lady had dissipated the funds leaving a balance of $5,831,173.55 , adding that Dame Patience Jonathan made a cash withdrawal of $100,000.00 on April 7,2017 from the account after obtaining court order in suit number FHC/L/CS/1343/16 on the ground that the she was not a party to the suit.
The EFCC said it also traced funds suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities to account number 2022000760 domiciled with Ecobank Nigeria Limited, adding that the purported signatory to the account one Ada Ifegbu with telephone number 08068583017 belongs to one Esther Oba.( The Sum of N2,953,522.78 kept in Ecobank account number 2022000760 in the name of LA Wari Furniture and Baths Limited were substantially the naira equivalent of USD given to Chima Nwafor John of Ecobank by one Esther Oba at the Aso Rock Villa.
That the said Chima Nwofor John upon receipts of the dollars in cash contacted a Bureau de change operators to convert the money to naira and deposited the naira equivalent to LA Forfeiture and Baths Limited’s account.) the agency said.
It was further said that the N2, 033,196,721.31 is currently on fixed account in the name of LA Wari Furniture Limited.
The agency added that apart from the fixed account, the sum of N388, 756.48 is currently standing to the credit of LA Wari Furniture and Baths Limited, adding that it would be in the interest of justice to make an order of interim forfeiture of the said sum to the Federal Government.
After listening to the argument of the commission’s counsel, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo the trial judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun grated the application for interim forfeiture.
She also directed the anti-graft agency to publish the order in a national daily given anybody interested in the money 14 days to come farewell and state why the money should not be permanently forfeited.