Court orders interim forfeiture of N1.4bn Paris, London Clubs refunds

A Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday, issued an order directing Access Bank Plc and Guaranty Trust Ltd to surrender N1.4 billion Paris and London Club loans in their custody.

Justice Mojisola Olatoregun ordered the banks to temporarily forfeit the loans.

Olatoregun made the order while granting an ex-parte application filed and argued before her court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) through its lawyer, Mr Ekene Iheanacho.

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

The court also ordered the EFCC to notify whoever is interested in the said money to appear before it and show cause why same should not be finally forfeited.

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

The EFCC in an affidavit deposed to by one of its investigators, Usman Zakari, stated that on May 26, 2016, the 36 state-governors through the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) engaged the services of consortium of consultants.

He said it was 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.

He said it 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 Aug. 31, 2016, showing a break down 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 further stated that following the report, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, approved an initial payment of the sum of 1.7 million dollars 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 million dollars and N19 billion, respectfully into the GTB and Access Bank accounts of NGF purportedly to defray incidental expenses.

He also stated that the said sum was paid into the Access Bank account of NGF on Dec. 8, 2016; and on Dec.14, 2016. The NGF paid the sum of N4. 3 billion to the Consortium as part of agreed consultancy fee.

It was also stated that the first respondent, Melrose General Services Ltd, 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.

He averred and that in order to obtain public fund, the first respondent recopied and misinterpreted the work of the Consortium to the NGF for payment as if it was first respondent’s work.

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

He added that the first respondent account with Access Bank Plc, was negative when the sum of N3.5billion was credited into it.

He said that between Dec. 15, 2016 and Jan. 20, 2017, the first respondent moved out about N2 billion , in order to launder the money leaving a balance of N1.2 billion before the intervention of the EFCC.

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

He thereby stated that interim order of the Court was necessary to forfeit to the Federal government of Nigeria the sum of N1.2 billion in Access Bank Plc account of the first respondent and the sum of N220million recovered from both second and third respondents.

The matter has been adjourned until Oct. 30 for hearing.