Court orders seizure of N120m, $228, 424, property linked to retired Air Force officer, wife

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A Federal High Court Judge in Abuja, Justice Anwuli Chikere on Thursday June 11 granted the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)’s request to seize landed property and cash of N120, 546, 042.02 and $228, 428.16 allegedly linked to retired Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Salu Atawodi and his wife, Winnie.

The judge gave the interim forfeiture order in a ruling in an ex-parte motion argued by the EFCC’s Lawyer, Ekele Iheanacho.

Justice Chikere ordered the EFCC to publicise the order of interim forfeiture to enable anybody interested in the affected property to appear before the court and show cause within 14 days why the property and fund should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.

The judge, therefore, adjourned the case till June 30 for mention.

The EFCC, in a supporting affidavit, said the N120, 546, 042.02 and $228, 428.16 were currently standing as investment in favour of the 2nd respondent (Winnie) with an investment firm – ARM Investment Managers.

Named as third respondent in the motion marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/537/2020 is a firm, Vector Integrated Limited.

The EFCC said it was investigating allegation of public funds diversion perpetrated while Atawodi was the Chairman of the Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Safety and Security (PICOMSS)

The commission also gave details of how the retired Air Force chief allegedly syphoned state’s funds, using his wife,who was a manager with Union Bank of Nigeria Plc between 1982 and 2015.

It further stated, in the supporting affidavit, that “the 1st respondent (Atawodi) was appointed the Chairman of PICOMSS in 2006.

He held the position between 2006 and 2012. In that capacity, he was administratively in charge of the day to day activities of the committee.

“PICOMSS received its funding from Federal Government agencies like NIMASA, NPA, NNPC and ONSA.

“For instance, between December, 2010 and October, 2011, a total sum of N12, 902, 833, 200.00 was paid to the Committee (PICOMSS) by ONSA.

“As the Chairman of PICOMSS, the 1st respondent was a signatory to all the bank accounts of PICOMSS in Union Bank Plc, Zenith Bank Plc, Oceanic Bank Plc (Now Eco Bank Plc) and Skye Bank Plc (now Polaris Bank).

“By a letter dated 12th November, 2010 and signed by the 1st respondent on behalf of PICOMSS, a contract for the sum of $32,337,163.00 was awarded to Xanatos Limited by PICOMSS.

“Xanatos accepted the award of the contract and the agreement was reduced into writing between PICOMSS and Xanatos Limited.

“Pursuant to the said contract, PICOMSS paid a total sum of N4,975,190,180.00 to Xanatos Limited between November, 2010 and October, 2011.

“After the first payment of the sum of N600,000,000.00 to Xanatos ltd by PICOMMS, the company transferred the sum of N300, 000, 000.00 to the 2nd respondent’s company, Auswee Investment Ltd in Union Bank on 20th December, 2010 and another N50, 000,000.00 on 7th January, 2011.

“The said Union Bank account of Auswee Investment Ltd was opened on 21St December, 2010 and received the above stated N300, 000, 000.00 payment as its first credit.”

According to EFCC, the Union Bank Plc account of Auswee Investment Ltd was opened in the Maitama Branch of Union Bank which branch was under the administrative control of the 2nd respondent as the bank’s employee.

“This account Auswee Investment Ltd was opened using a false Board Resolution dated 18th June, 2010 which was purportedly authorised and procured in the name of Chief Asiruwa Uhuango to be the sole signatory to the said company’s account.

“In 2011, the 1st respondent whilst still the chairman of PICOMSS personally invested the sum of $5,000,000 with Mr. Mohammed Jibrin the Managing Director of Suntrust Saving & Loans Ltd in cash.

“The said sum of $5, 000,000.00 investment yielded interest of U551, 120, 000.00 and both principal amount and the ‘interest were subsequently transferred to Asset & Resource Management Company Ltd (“ARM Investment Managers”) in 2013 for further investment in favour of the respondents.

“Both 1st and 2nd respondents have largely invested these funds in acquisition of properties both locally and internationally.

“However, the sums of N120,546,042.02 and $228,428.16 sought to be forfeited are standing as investment in favour of the 2nd respondent in ARM Investment Managers.

“Around the period in which the 1st respondent made the cash investments with the Mohammed Jubrin, a total cash withdrawals of N917,389, 500.00 was inexplicably made from PICOMSS bank accounts in the following manner: (a) cash withdrawal of N733, 889, 500 between 22/3/11 to 28/09/11 from the Union Bank account No. 001057733 (b) cash withdrawal of N183,500,000 between 1/9/11 and 29/9/11 from the Zenith Bank Account No. 1012681209.

“The respondents who operated several bank accounts where billions of naira were deposited in local and foreign currencies did not explicitly explain the sources of the cash.

“As a former public officer, the 1st respondent failed and refused to declare his assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau either while in service or upon leaving office.

“As a banker, the 2nd respondent never declared her assets despite operating numerous bank accounts in her name, fictitious names as well as corporate names in Fidelity Bank, where funds running into billions of naira were deposited into the accounts ( in local and foreign currencies while she was in the employment of the bank,” the EFCC said.

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