A Federal Capital Territory High Court in Maitama has blocked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, from seizing four London properties that were incorrectly linked to Diezani Allison-Madueke, the former minister of petroleum.
In a ruling handed down by Justice Olukayode Adeniyi, the court also prohibited the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Crown Prosecution Service (United Kingdom), the National Crime Agency (United Kingdom), and three British Investigators- Helen Hughes, Stacey Boniface, and John Bavister- from seizing the assets.
Justice Adeniyi ruled that the evidence presented before the court indicated that the aforementioned assets legitimately belonged to Mr. Benedict Peters and his enterprises.
Mr. Peters, the owner of AITEO, along with his three firms Collinwood Limited, Rosewood Investments Limited, and Walworth Properties Limited, filed a lawsuit entitled FCT/HC/CV/0536/17.
In the lawsuit filed by their legal team led by Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, the Claimants accused the defendant of misrepresenting the genuine ownership of the assets and concealing information concerning the properties.
They informed the court that the EFCC secured interim forfeiture orders based on flagrant misrepresentations and concealment of facts in order to request Mutual Legal Assistance, which resulted in two restriction orders in the United Kingdom.
Consequently, the Claimants petitioned the Nigerian court to intervene in the matter, insisting that the improper connection of the properties to the former Petroleum Minister and the subsequent restraint orders in the United Kingdom caused hardship, grave damages, loss of earnings, loss of goodwill, and exposed the Plaintiffs to public contempt, odium, and reproach.
In his judgment, a copy of which was obtained by Vanguard on Tuesday, Justice Adeniyi stated that the court was convinced that the defendants attempted to unlawfully extract by intimidation and force the assets, properties, and funds to which the Claimants are entitled.
“It is hereby declared that the Defendants, by fraudulent design, suppressed and misrepresented facts in supposition that the Claimants’ properties namely: (1) 270-17 Street, Unit #4204, Atlanta, Georgia; (2) Flat 5 Parkview, 83- 86 Prince Albert Road, St. John’s Wood, London; (3) Flat 59 Harley House Marylebone, London; and (4) Apartment 4,5 Arlington Roed,
London; properly acquired, belonged to Mrs. Deziani Alison-Madueke, former Minister of Petroleum in Nigeria, and/or were unlawfully acquired, a fact they knew or should have known was false, which constitutes the tort of carousel fraud.
“It is hereby further declared that the predominant purpose of the deceitful sham allegations by the Defendants that the Assets/ Properties listed in relief 1 above belonged to persons other than the Claimants was directly intended (albeit to inflict economic loss on the as it was to unlawfully profit the Defendants.
“It is hereby further declared that the unlawful means of conspiracy of the Defendants was to extract by intimidation, coercion, the assets, properties and monies to which the Claimants are legitimately entitled.
“The Defendants, their operatives, officers, agents, servants in whatever manner and howsoever called, are hereby jointly or severally restrained from interfering with the proprietary rights and/or interests of the Claimants, their agents, alter-ego or privies in relation to the properties listed in this suit.
“The Defendants either by themselves jointly/ severally, their operatives, officer, investigators, servants, agents, associates and howsoever called, are hereby restrained from interfering/ continued with the person of the 1st Claimant, either by way of arrest, criminal indictment, charge, interdiction, extradition, or in any other manner infringing on his personal liberty and freedom of movement on the facts and circumstances of this case, especially in the face of subsisting judgments of various Courts on the issues.
“The sum of (Two Hundred Million Naira) only is hereby awarded as general damages, jointly in favour of the Claimants against the Defendants, jointly and severally, for the unlawful interference, economic loss, loss of Corporate goodwill from creditors, expropriation of personal Assets and proprietary rights of the Claimants”, the court held.