Crime News

Court grants permanent forfeiture of Obi’s N280m to Buhari govt

LAGOS, Nigeria – The Lagos State chapter of the Federal High Court on Wednesday permanently forfeited to the Federal Government the N280,555,010.65 found in bank accounts belonging to two companies owned by ‘Forbes entrepreneur’ Obinwanne Okeke, AKA Invictus Obi.

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Invictus Oil and Gas Ltd and Invictus Investment Limited are the names of the companies.

Okeke is standing trial in the United States of American for an alleged $11m cyber fraud following his indictment alongside 77 Nigerians.

The presiding judge, Justice Rilwan Aikawa, made the order sequel to a motion for final forfeiture filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo.

Recall that the judge 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.

Oyedepo, at the resumed hearing on Thursday, informed the court that all requirements for final forfeiture had been met.

The EFCC lawyer asked the court to grant the application for final forfeiture because “there is no opposition to the request from anybody.”

Justice Aikawa, while granting his request in a bench ruling, ordered that the sum of N280.5m in two Zenith Bank accounts no 3341692012 and 1013714256 be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

“I have seen the application seeking for the final forfeiture of the sum of N280.5m where housed in the two bank accounts which is reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities.

“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 suit. 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.”

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:

“(a) That the Obinwanne George Okeke is a strong leader of a cybercrime syndicate specialized in business email compromise.

“(b) That the said syndicate has defrauded many innocent and unsuspecting victims…

“(g) 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

“(h) 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 entrepreneurs under the age of 30 and described by the magazine as “proof that there is hope for Africa.”

But he was arrested in August this year by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation as the ringleader of a cybercrime syndicate, which had defrauded a number of American citizens to the tune of $11m “through fraudulent wire transfer instructions in a massive coordinated business email compromise scheme.”

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