31 July 2007

Nigeria: Alamieyeseigha Forfeits Six Firms to BYSG

Abuja — Six companies belonging to former Bayelsa State Governor Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha were ordered by a Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday to be sold and the proceeds remitted to the Bayelsa State government. The companies' combined value was put at several billions of naira.

Leader of Sokoto's Shi'ite community, Malam Kasimu Mohammed Umar (middle), with Malam Sidi Manir Mainasara and others at the premises of the Sokoto Chief Magistrate's Court, where they were arraigned yesterday.

The court further ordered the forfeiture of cash in local and foreign currencies as well as properties owned by the companies in Nigeria and overseas. The companies are Solomon & Peters Ltd, Santolina Investment Corporation, Pesal Nigeria Ltd, Kpedefa Nigeria Ltd, Jetty Properties Ltd and Herbage Global Services Ltd.

Physical properties that Alamieyeseigha forfeited include Chelsea Hotel, Abuja; property at Plot 26, Dalhatu Close, Abacha Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos; property at No 20, Obagi Street, Diobu, Port Harcourt; property at No 1, Community Road, Off Allen Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos; property at 247, Water Gardens, London, W2 2DG, London; property at 14, Mapesbury Road, London, NW2 4JB and property at Flat 202, Jubilee Heights, Shootuphill, London, NW2 3UQ.

Also forfeited were property at 68-70 Regent Park, London; property at 4A Ilu Drive, Ikoyi, Lagos; property at 10, Oguda Close, Maitama, Abuja; and property at 18, Mississippi Street, Maitama, Abuja.

Chief Alamieseigha also forfeited cash, including £100,000; £70,000; £50,000; £122,175; £70,000; £198,814.88; £120,000; £100,000; £100,000; £250,000; £99,985; £81,985; £19,985; £136,157; £275,027 and £299,465.61.

The former Bayelsa gover-nor was last Thursday sen-tenced to a two year jail term on a six count charge of fraud after he made a plea bargain. He was freed by the authority of the Nigerian Prison Service on Friday, since the two year jail term took effect from the date of his incarceration two years ago.

When the matter came up for hearing in court yesterday, the EFCC counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacob informed the court that an amended charge had been filed against the accused persons. He therefore prayed the court that same should be read for the plea of the companies to be taken.

On reading the 25 count charge on the accused, the prosecuting counsel said sequel to section 468 of the Criminal Procedure Act, the accused persons have in writing pleaded guilty to the charge and the court can act on the written plea pursuant to section 218 of CPA and by section 218 of the CPA.

"I will urge the court to look at the statements in our proof of evidence, Volume I. The court will see from this how contractors funded the accounts of those companies through contract kickbacks and outright withdrawal from the Bayelsa State government accounts, mostly in Bond Bank. Page 44 to 50 of the proof of evidence is the statement by the officials of the bank, stating how the various sums were remitted to accounts abroad and how monies were remitted to acquire properties in the United Kingdom," he said.

Chief Mike Ozekhome, counsel to the companies did not object to the position of the EFCC lawyer. Presiding judge Justice Mohammed Shuiabu then delivered a terse ruling, saying an amended 25 count charge of concealing the nature of various proceeds of crime was filed against the accused persons and they entered a guilty plea.

The judge said having carefully considered the charge and proof of evidence, it was evident that the prosecution had established a prima facie against the accused companies.

"The prosecution has proved its case beyond reasonable doubt. I consequently find the accused persons guilty as charged", he said. But in an allocutus before the court, counsel to Alamieyeseigha, Chief T.J. Omonigbo Okpoko {SAN}, pleaded for leniency for the former governor.

He said "whether good or bad, right or wrong", the fact of the governor having served in public office should be taken into account by the trial judge.

He recounted Alamieyeseigha's days in the Air Force, where he served for 19 years, and said Alamieyeseigha left the service voluntarily without blemish.

Alamieyeseigha, who was impeached by the Bayelsa State House of Assembly on December 9, 2005, had been facing a 40-count charge of money laundering, illegal acquisition of property and false declaration of assets. Midway into the trial, he developed complications arising from a surgical operation he underwent in Germany in 2005.

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