Justice Tijjani Ringim of the Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday ordered the temporary forfeiture of the funds and properties traced to suspended aide of the Ogun Governor, Abidemi Ganiyu Rufai, accused of engaging in wire fraud in the United States.
Rufai, who is a Senior Special Assistant to Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, is currently being detained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) over $350,000 employment fraud allegedly committed during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown.
Specifically, Justice Ringim order covers Rufai’s property located at House 11. Omodayo Awotuga Street, Bera Estate, Chevy View, Lekki, Lagos and funds in his accounts with Zenith Bank Plc and Sterling Bank Plc.
The judge granted the order after entertaining an ex parte application filed and moved by one of the lawyers of the Economic and Financial Crimes (EFCC) Ebuka Okongwu.
Listed as respondents by the EFCC in the proceedings are Rufai and his firm Omo Mayodele Global Investment.
The EFCC counsel had informed the court that it was essential for its to grant the prayer of interim forfeiture to preserve the res and prevent further dissipation of the defendants’ funds.
Okongwu also filed an affidavit in support of the application, which was sworn to by an EFCC investigator, Usman Abdulhamid, detailing the agency’s investigation of Rufai in collaboration with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
In the affidavit, Abdulhamid claimed that Rufai had already dissipated a suspicious N29.37million in tranches of N5,000,000, N5,000,000, N2,730,000, N1,100,000, N2,040,000, N2,000,000, N2,000,000 and N5,000,000.
He claimed that the funds were warehoused in his accounts in three banks.
“Rufai was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at the John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport in New York on May 14 over alleged $350,000 COVID-19 unemployment fraud from Washington State Employment Security Department, in the United States.
“He was indicted for alleged conspiracy, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft,” the investigator averred.
In a short ruling, Justice Ringim granted the application as prayed in the motion paper.
The judge held, “I am satisfied by the averment in the affidavit deposed to by Usman Abdulhamid and the legal submission of the counsel that this application should succeed and same is accordingly granted as prayed.”
He further directed the anti-graft agency to publish the order within 14 days from Tuesday to enable any interested party to come before the court to show cause why the funds and properties should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
He then adjourned the matter to December 1 for continuation of hearing.
In the affidavit filed in support of the application, the EFCC investigated Rufai’s sources of income and bank accounts.
It found that on 19th March 2020, there was an inflow of N4,500,000, which was further dissipated the same day in five tranches of N1,000,000 (in four places) and N500,000 into Rufai’s Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank) Account.
It said the transaction recurred in the 1st Respondent’s account domiciled with the 3rd Respondent.
Subsequent transactions included but not limited to “transactions of the sum of N5,000,000 on the 27th March 2020, N5,000,000 on 3rd April 2020; N2,730,000 on the 7th April 2020; N1,100,000; N2,040,000 on the 14th April 2020; N2,000,000 on the 27th April 2020; N2,000,000 on the 28th April 2020; N5,000,000 on the 13th May 2020, and numerous other transactions, which were all dissipated to his GTB Account on the same day of the inflow.
“Further analysis revealed that prior to the first inflow on the 19th March 2020, the 1st Respondents account rarely receives such traffic and huge inflows.
“Upon proactive investigative method of asset tracking and recovery conducted by the Commission, it was revealed that the 1st Respondent owns a property located at HOUSE 11. OMODAYO AWOTUGA STREET, BERA ESTATE, CHEVY VIEW, LEKKI, LAGOS, NIGERIA,” it said.
The EFCC added that it wrote various letters of investigation activities to various financial institutions, agencies and related regulatory bodies, some of the responses of which are still being awaited.