By Olaolu Oladipo, Lagos
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has urged a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos to dismiss a suit by wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Patience.
In its counter-affidavit to the suit, the commission said the $15.5 million which Mrs Jonathan claims belongs to her is “a proceed of crime”.
Mrs. Jonathan, in the civil suit before Justice Mohammed Idris, is claiming that EFCC froze four of her accounts with Skye Bank in the name of four companies.
The accounts, she said, have a balance of $15,591,700 (about N5 billion) belonging to her.
But, the companies, on September 15, pleaded guilty and were convicted for laundering the money when they were arraigned in a criminal charge before Justice Babs Kuewumi.
The judge, however, refused to order the money’s forfeiture to the Federal Government until the trial of the others named in the charge was concluded.
The companies are: Pluto Property and Investment Company Ltd (represented by Friday Davis), Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Ltd (represented by Agbor Baro), Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Ltd (represented by Dioghowori Frederick) and Avalon Global Property Development Ltd (represented by Taiwo Ebenezer).
EFCC arraigned them with a former Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to President Jonathan, Waripamo Dudafa, a lawyer, Amajuoyi Briggs and a banker, Adedamola Bolodeoku.
Dudafa, Briggs and Bolodeoku pleaded not guilty to the 17-count charge.
Mrs. Jonathan, in the suit before Justice Idris, is seeking an order to de-freeze the accounts and release her money.
Her lawyer Adedipe told Justice Idris that his client amended her processes, saying she had filed a motion to regularise them, which the court granted.
EFCC’s lawyer, Oyedepo Rotimi, said he would also amend his response to the suit.
Justice Idris said: “Leave will be granted to the respondent (EFCC) to file any amended process.”
Rotimi accused the applicant of changing the companies’ address through which the suit was purportedly served on them. Mrs Jonathan joined the companies in her suit.
The EFCC lawyer said: “We are of the opinion that if you want to change the address of a party, it should not the adversary who will change the address of another party.
“What we saw was the applicant was changing the address of the other defendants and I don’t think that is tidy.”
Women again stormed the court yesterday in solidarity with Mrs Jonathan. Some of them struggled to gain access to the already-packed courtroom, which became very congested.
Justice Kuewumi had on November 2 refused order the forfeiture of $15.5million after convicting the companies in whose accounts the money is domiciled.
The judge said he would hand down a sentence on the companies after the trial of the others who pleaded not guilty in the charge.
While reviewing the facts, Rotimi said the money was stolen from the State House, Abuja.
He said: “EFCC received an intelligence report showing vividly that the fourth to seventh defendants retained proceeds of crime.
“Our investigations showed that Fetus Iyoha admitted receiving the fund from the first defendant (Dudafa). Iyoha is a domestic staff at the State House. He admitted that funds credited into the accounts were given to him from the State House.”
Rotimi said Iyoha paid $3,096,377.38 into Pluto’s account; paid $3,410,534.71 into Seagate’s account, paid $3,765,711.87 into Trans Oceans’ account, and paid $250,000 into Avalon Global’s account.
Mrs Jonathan claimed she operated the accounts even though they were opened in the companies’ names by Dudafa contrary to her instructions.
She said the bank promised to rectify the issue by changing the names to hers’, but never did so.
Justice Idris adjourned until January 18 for hearing.
Trial in case before Justice Kuewumi will continue on December 14.