Court Orders Temporary Forfeiture of N1.4bn Paris/London Club Loan Found in Two Banks

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A Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday ordered temporary forfeiture of N1.4 billion, which was part of un-refunded Paris and London Club Loans, domiciled at Access Bank Plc and Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank) to the federal government. 

Justice Cecelia Mojisola Olatoregun made the order while granting an ex-parte application marked FHC/L/CS/158../2017, filed and argued before her court by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) through his lawyer, E. E. Iheanacho.

Apart from the order of temporary forfeiture, the court also ordered the EFCC to notify whoever was interested in the said money to appear before the court and show cause why the money should not be finally forfeited.

The judge also directed the EFCC to publish the temporary forfeiture order in a national newspaper for the respondents or anyone who was interested in the money to appear before the court and show cause within 14 days why final forfeiture order will not be made.

Listed as respondents in the suit are: Melrose General Services Limited: WASP Networks Limited: and Thebe Wellness Services.

The EFCC in an affidavit deposed to by one of its investigators, Usman Zakari, stated that on May 26, 2016, the 36 states governors through the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) engaged the services of consortium of consultants made up of GSCL consulting and Bizplus Consulting Services Limited tagged ‘GSCL Bizplus Consortium’, for the purpose of verification, reconciliation, and recovery of over-deductions on Paris and London Club Loans on the account of states and local government between 1995 to 2002.

The deponent stated that the consortium carried out the said assignment of verification, reconciliation and recovery of the said Paris and London Club loans on the states and local government between 1995 and 2002, and came up with a total sum of $6,483,282,424.61 as due for refund to the states.

He stated that the report of the consortium dated August 31, 2016, showing a breakdown of the debt profile state by state and over-deductions was addressed to the Minister of Finance. And that the report was submitted to the NGF.

He stated further that following the report, the president approved an initial payment of the sum of $1.730,930.53, for the benefit of the various states.

He also stated that in line with the request of the state governors, the Ministry of Finance through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), paid the sum of $86,546,526.65 and N19,439,225,871.11 (representing five percent of the approved initial Paris and London Club refund) respectfully into the GTBank Plc and Access Bank Plc accounts of NGF purportedly to defray consultancy and incidental expenses.

He stated further that the said sum of N19,439,225,871.11 was paid into the Access Bank Plc account of NGF on December 8, 2016. And on December 14, 2016, the NGF paid the sum of N4. 389,207,099.05 billion to the consortium as part of agreed consultancy fee.

He also stated that the first respondent, Melrose General Services Limited, whose alter ego is one Robert Mbonu, was never engaged by the NGF to carry out any consultancy services in relation to the said Paris and London Club refund. Adding that in order to obtain public fund, the first respondent recopied and misinterpreted the work of consortium to the NGF for payment as if it was first respondent’s work.

He stated that based on the act of Mbonu, the first respondent was paid the sum of N3.5 billion by the NGF on December 14, 2016, while no consultancy job was executed by the first respondent on behalf of the NGF.

He also states that the first respondent account with Access Bank Plc, which was negative when the sum of N3.5 billion was credited into it. But between December 15, 2016 and January 20, 2017, the first respondent moved out about N2.277,615,142 in order to launder the money leaving a balance of N1.222,384,857.84 before the intervention of his Agency.

He also stated the sum of N220 million was voluntarily returned by the first and second respondents, whose representatives also made extra judicial statements.

He therefore stated that interim order of the court is necessary to forfeit to the Federal government of Nigeria the sum of N1,222,384,857.84 in Access Bank Plc account of the first respondent and the sum of N220 million recovered from both second and third respondents.

The case was adjourned to October 30, 2017 for report of compliance.

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