Looters Haven! How Heritage Bank forfeited ‘mysterious’ N157bn to FG

Things are definitely not the same anymore at Heritage Bank as the deposit bank is reeling under the effect of a Federal High Court order mandating it to forfeit a ‘mysterious’ N157bn traced to the bank and with no owners, to the Federal Government.
The EFCC had discovered the mystery money following an intelligence report received by the anti-graft agency.
The bank, a transformation from the defunct Societe Generale Bank owned by the Saraki family was ordered by the court to forfeit the money suspected to have been proceed of fraud or looted fund following the failure of owners of the said money to show up after the publication of an interim order by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, in newspapers, as directed by the court.
Justice Chuka Obiozor had in August ordered the EFCC to publish the interim order in the newspapers for anyone interested in the money to show up in court to prove why it should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
EFCC’s counsel, Iheanacho Ekene, told the judge that the publication order had been complied with, adding that no one had shown up to lay claim to the money.
The Federal High Court thereby ordered the final forfeiture of the sums of N1,250,000,000; $327,132.35, £167.85 and €157.91 recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to the Federal Government.
Justice Obiozor gave the order, following a suit filed by the EFCC against Heritage Bank Plc and Secure Electronics Technology Limited.
The anti-graft agency said the funds were reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities.
Iheanacho told Justice Obiozor that “The persons in whose possession the funds were found are not laying claim to them and surrendered them for forfeiture.”
In August, Justice Obiozor had made a temporary forfeiture order in respect of the funds. He ordered the EFCC to publish the interim order in the newspapers for anyone interested in the money to show up in court to prove why it should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
Iheanacho urged the judge to order that the funds be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
As there was no opposing application, Justice Obiozor ordered the sums of N1.2bn, $327,132.35, £167.85 and €157.90 permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
In a supporting affidavit to the forfeiture application, a female investigator with the EFCC, Oghare Ogbole, had averred that the funds were discovered following an intelligence report received by the anti-graft agency.
She added that, “Heritage Bank did not provide any legitimate explanation for the above transactions (involving the sums) and consequently returned the said money through 16 separate bank drafts issued in favour of the EFCC Recovered Funds Account.
“Attached and marked as exhibits EFCC 7A to 7F are the bank drafts representing the refund of the sums of N157,000,000,000 by Heritage Bank Plc, on the sums of $327,132.35, £167.85 and €157.90,” she said.

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