Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday ordered the initial 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 issued the order following an ex parte application filed before him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, in which the Commission claimed, that two firms were owned by Obinwanne Okeke, “a strong leader of a cyber crime syndicate that specialised in business e-mail compromise.”
The anti-graft agency had told the court that the sums of N240,250,904.46 and N40, 304,106.19 its found warehoused in Zenith Bank Plc and First City Monument Bank accounts of Invictus Oil and Gas Limited and Invictus Investment Limited, respectively.
Okeke, popularly known as Invictus, 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.
While moving the ex parte application on Monday, EFCC cou sel, Rotimi Oyedepo informed the court that the funds were“ reasonably suspected” to be proceeds of cyber crime and urged the judge to order its forfeiture to the Federal Government to prevent Okeke from dissipating same.
In an affidavit attached to the the application, an EFCC investigator, Ariyo Muritala, claimed that the anti-graft agency 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:
(a ) That the Obinwanne George Okeke is a strong leader of a cyber crime syndicate that specialised in business e-mail compromise.
(b) That the said syndicate has defrauded many innocent and unsuspecting victims.
(c ) That the said Obiwanne George Okeke has been arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States of America for cyber crime-related offences.
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(d) 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.
Oyedepo argued that Justice Aikawa had the power to make the interim forfeiture order by virtue of Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and other related Fraud Offence Act No. 14, 2006.
The judge agreed with him and ordered the temporary forfeiture of the funds.