Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday ordered the permanent forfeiture of N280,555,010.65 “warehoused” in the bank accounts of Invictus Oil and Gas Limited and Invictus Investment Limited to the federal government.
Justice Aikawa ordered that the sum found in the accounts of the two companies owned by ‘Forbes entrepreneur’ Obinwanne Okeke also known as Invictus Obi be handed over to the government after granting an application brought to that effect by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Okeke, was arrested in August by the United states of America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), over allegations of being the head of a cyber crime syndicate that had defrauded a number of American citizens to the tune of $11m “through fraudulent wire transfer instructions in a massive, coordinated, business e-mail compromise scheme.”
He is currently standing trial in the US over an alleged $ 11 m cyber fraud.
Justice Aikawa had on October 9 granted an interim forfeiture of the funds and ordered EFCC to publish the interim order to enable any interested parties to show cause why the final order should not be made.
At the resumed hearing of the matter on Thursday, the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo informed the court that all requirements for final forfieture of the money had been met.
He disclosed that the Commission had published the interim in the newspaper on October 25.
Rotimi, therefore, urged the court to grant the application because “there is no opposition to the request from anybody.”
The lawyer further submitted that the court had the power to make the order by virtue of Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and other related Fraud Offence Act No. 14, 2006.
In his ruling, Justice Aikawa ordered that the sum of N280.5m in two Zenith Bank accounts no 3341692012 and 1013714256 be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The judge held, “I have seen the application seeking for the final forfieture of the sum of N280.5m wherehoused in the two bank accounts which is reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities.
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“I am satisfied that the requirements enumerated under Section 17 of the Advanced Fee Fraud and other related Offences Act have been met by the applicant in this siut.
“Consequently, this application is hereby granted as prayed as it remains unchallenged.
“The sum of N280.5m found in the bank account of Invictus Investment Limited, who is the second respondent in this suit, is hereby forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria,” he held.
The EFCC had told the judge that Okeke, 31, was “a strong leader of a cybercrime syndicate specialising in business email compromise.”
In an affidavit filed in support of the application, EFCC investigator, Ariyo Muritala, said the commission assigned him and others to investigate a request for information on Okeke and three others by the United States Department of Justice, Office of the Legal Attache, US Consulate General.
“I know as a fact and verily believe that our investigation has revealed the following ear-aching and mind-boggling findings:
“That the Obinwanne George Okeke is a strong leader of a cybercrime syndicate specialized in business email compromise.
“That the said syndicate has defrauded many innocent and unsuspecting victims.
“That the said Obiwanne George Okeke has been arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States of America for cybercrime-related offences
“That if these funds are not forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria Obiwanne George Okeke and his cronies will dissipate same,” Muritala said in the affidavit.
Okeke was in 2016 celebrated by Forbes International as one of Africa’s most outstanding 30 enterpreneurs under the age of 30 and described by the magazine as “proof that there is hope for Africa.”