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Paris Club Refund: Supreme Court Reverses N1.2 Billion Forfeiture Order Against Consultant

The Nigeria Supreme Court has on Friday reversed the final forfeiture order made against N1,222,384,857.84 linked to Melrose General Services Limited, associated with the much-talked-about Paris Club Refund.

The ruling was delivered in a 3-2 majority decision of the apex court chaired by presiding judge, Inyang Okoro after the company through its lawyer, Kehinde Ogunwumiju (SAN) filed an appeal.

The plaintiff had challenged the Court of Appeal’s judgement which ordered the forfeiture of the money to the Federal Government as it was being used for an unlawful activity in the Paris Club fund.

Ogunwumiju told the apex court that the money in question was set aside to pay the contractual and consultancy agreement his client had with relevant stakeholders in government.

He added that the money involved in the forfeiture suit is not a proceeding of any unlawful activity as claimed by the EFCC and prayed the court to set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

EFCC’s prosecutor, Ekele Iheanacho however urged the apex court to dismiss the appeal of the appellant.

He explained that EFCC investigated the case and found out that the sum of N3.5 billion was fraudulently paid to the appellant to carry out a consultancy job for the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, under the guise that the appellant carried out consultancy job for the NGF entitling it to the money.

Iheanacho stressed that their investigation revealed the consultant did not do any such work after receiving the money but rather made several withdrawals within a short time leaving N1,222,384,857.84 before the EFCC intervened.

He said, “My Lords, we seek the leave of your noble Lordships to undertake a brief overview of the concept of forfeiture granted by the two courts below in a bid to drive home the 1st respondent `s case.”

“There are generally two types of forfeitures used to recover the proceeds and instrumentalities of crimes. They share the same objective, namely the forfeiture to the state of the proceeds and instrumentalities of crime. Both share common two-fold rationales.”

Iheanacho urged the apex court to regard the judgments of the Federal High Court and Appeal Court which found that the appellant failed to show that the said funds are not proceeds of crime.

In its majority decision, the apex court agreed with the defendant that EFCC failed to establish that the money in question was a means to perform fraudulent acts.

The apex court then upheld the appellant’s case while setting aside the final forfeiture orders of the courts.

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