Justice Binta Murtala-Nyako of a Federal High Court, Abuja, has set aside the Forfeiture Order obtained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on all UK properties belonging to Aiteo boss, Mr. Benedict Peters.
The court also cleared UK Properties of Mr. Benedict Peters, of any link with former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dizeani Alison Madueke and upheld the properties as proceeds of legitimate earnings.
Justice Murtala-Nyako, declared that the said properties – Flat 5 Parkview, Prince Albert Road, and flat 58 Harley House, Marylebone, all in the United Kingdom were legitimately earned and purchased by Mr. Peters.
Consequently, the court directed the EFCC to immediately release the properties to Mr. Peters, insisting that the said houses have no link to the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Dieziani Alison- Madueke, who is currently under investigation by the EFCC and UK authorities over allegations of corruption while in office.
The ruling followed an application filed before the court by the anti-graft agency on January 12, in pursuant to order 26, rule 11,12 (1) and (2) order 48 rule 4 of the Federal High Court (civil procedure ) rules 2009, section 33 of the EFCC Act of 2004.
Justice Nyako in the ruling, however, declared that the said properties cannot be part of an Interim Forfeiture Order obtained by EFCC in 2016, in the course of its investigation over allegations of corruption against the former Petroleum Minister.
Justice Nyako recalled how that a court of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with competent and coordinate jurisdiction had, in a judgment in separate proceedings, ruled that the said properties were legitimately earned by Mr. Peters, and therefore cannot be seized by EFCC as corruption proceeds.
According to her, “The said properties amongst others having been legitimately acquired by the defendant Mr. Peters and cannot be forfeited to the government under any circumstance.
“This settles to my mind the issues of the first two applications and judgment by the FCT High Court.”
Justice Nyako, however, stated that the court has no authority to sit on appeal on a decision earlier taken by the FCT High Court, which is a coordinate court of jurisdiction. The judge further argued that the interim forfeiture earlier granted the EFCC cannot override or supercede an order of final judgment of a court of coordinate jurisdiction.
“Consequently, I hereby uphold the orders of the High Court of FCT and order the release of the properties of Rosewood investment, limited and Collingwood limited immediately.”
Justice Nyako ruled that the respondents, EFCC, merely suspected that the properties mentioned belong to the former minister of Petroleum and seized them amongst other property purported to have belonged to the former minister as proceeds of crime.