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Paris club loan: Court orders forfeiture of N1.2bn

*Companies involved in fraud named in court

Justice O. Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Friday, 13th October, 2017, ordered an interim forfeiture of the sum of N1, 222, 384, 857.84 (One Billion, Two Hundred and Twenty-two Million, Three Hundred and Eighty-four Thousand, Eight Hundred and Fifty-seven Naira, Eighty-four Kobo) recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from the account of Melrose General Services Company Limited.

Justice Oguntoyinbo also ordered the temporary forfeiture of the sum of N220, 000, 000. 00 (Two Hundred and Twenty Million Naira) recovered from two other companies namely: Wasp Networks Limited and Thebe Wellness Services.

The order came following a motion ex-parte filed by E. E. Iheanacho, a prosecutor with the EFCC, pursuant to Section 44(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended and Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act No. 14, 2006.

In granting the EFCC prayers, Justice Oguntoyinbo ordered anyone interested in the money to appear before the court within 14 days to show cause why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.

The judge also directed the Commission to publish in any national newspaper for anyone who is interested in the money to appear before the court to show cause why the order for the final forfeiture should not be granted.

On 26th May, 2016, the 36 states’ governors, through the Nigeria Governor Forum (NGF) had engaged the services of a consortium of consultants made up of GSCL Consulting and Bizplus Consulting Services Limited (“Messrs GSCL Biz Plus Consortium”) for the purpose of verification, reconciliation and recovery of over-deductions on Paris and London Club Loans on the accounts of states and local governments between 1995 and 2002.

The company had carried out the said assignment and declared a total sum of US$ 6, 483, 282, 424. 61 as due for refund to the states.

Following this, the Federal Government had approved an initial payment of the sum of US$ 1, 730, 930.53 for the benefit of the various states.

The Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun,  had, through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) paid the sums of US$ 86,546, 526.65  and N19, 439, 225, 871.11 representing 5% of the approved initial Paris and London Club refunds.

On 14th December, 2016, the NGF had paid the sum of N4, 389, 207,099.05 to the Consortium of GSCL BizPlus as part of the agreed consultancy fee.

Melrose General Services Limited, who was the first respondent, was never engaged by the NGF to carry out any consultancy services in relation to the said Paris and London Club refund.

However, in order to obtain public funds, the first respondent had allegedly re-copied and misrepresented the work of GSCL BizPlus Consortium to the Nigeria Governor Forum (NGF) for payment.

As a result, the first respondent was allegedly paid the sum of N3, 500, 000,000.00 by the NGF on December 14, 2016, even when it did not execute any consultancy job for the Forum.

The first respondent’s Access Bank Plc account No. 0005892453 was said to be in red at the time the sum of N3, 500,000,000.00 was paid into it.

Between 15th December, 2016 and 20th January, 2017, the first respondent allegedly moved out about N2, 277,615,142 in a bid to launder the money, leaving a balance of N1,222, 384, 857.84 before the intervention of the EFCC.

Investigation revealed that hundreds of millions of Naira from the Paris and London Club refund were withdrawn in cash, while the company wired some amounts of money outside the shores of the country and paid some amounts to third parties in Nigeria.

The Commission, however, recovered the sum of N200,000,000.00  which Melrose General Services Limited transferred to Wasp Networks Limited,  the second respondent, on 11th January, 2017 purportedly for investment in the company.

The EFCC also recovered another sum of N20,000,000.00  transferred to Thebe Wellness Services, the third respondent, on 19th December, 2017 also purportedly for  investment.

However, both Wasp Network and Thebe were said to have voluntarily returned the money transferred to them by the first respondent.

 

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