Court restores Ikoyi properties to Saraki, discharges forfeiture order

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Justice Muhammed Liman of the Federal High Court Lagos on Thursday restored two Ikoyi properties to the former Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki.

The court had on October 21, 2019, while granting an exparte application brought before it by the EFCC and argued by its counsel, Mr. Nnemeka Omewa, ordered interim forfeiture of the two properties located on 17 and 17b, McDonald Road, Ikoyi, Eti-Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State, which were said to be reasonably suspected to have been acquired with proceeds of unlawful activity.

Upon being served with the interim forfeiture order, the former Senate President, through his counsel, Mr. Kehinde Ogunwunmiju (SAN), approached the court for discharged of the interim order.

This judgment comes after counsel to the 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 its judgment, the Court 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 applicant had in its affidavit in support of its motion 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 Respondent’s counsel’s submission that the burden of proof for final forfeiture is on the preponderance of evidence and that the applicant had failed to show that the monies used to purchase the property were from the Kwara State government house account.

The court was not satisfied that the Respondent had paid off the loan used to purchase the property.

The evidence of the transactions presented by the Applicant were 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 Applicant failed to prove its entitlement to the relief of final forfeiture of the Respondent’s properties, accordingly dismissed the application and vacated the interim forfeiture order it made on 21st October 2019.