Vanguard (Lagos)

4 January 2013

Nigeria: N6.5 Billion Fraud - EFCC Seizes Sylva's 48 Property in Abuja

Photo: Vanguard
Former Governor Timpre Sylva

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, yesterday, seized 48 choice property belonging to former Bayelsa State Governor, Mr. Timipre Sylva, who is being prosecuted at a Federal High Court in Abuja for alleged misappropriation of N6.46 billion state funds when he was governor of the state.

The interim forfeiture of the property order by Justice A. R Mohammed of the Federal High Court Abuja was obtained on December 28, 2012.

Meanwhile, the embattled former Bayelsa State governor has condemned the action of the EFCC, charging them to respect the law.

Assets belonging to the former governor against which a forfeiture order was obtained by the EFCC are: a mansion at 3 River Niger Street, plot 3192 Cadastral zone AO, Maitama District Abuja; nine units (comprising six one bedroom and 3 two bedroom apartments) at 8 Sefadu Street Wuse zone 2, plot 262 Cadastral zone AO2, Wuse Abuja; and 2 units duplexes at 5 Oguta Street, plot 906 Cadastral zone Wuse 11 Abuja.

One of the seized property.

Others are: a duplex at Plot 1271 Nike Street Cadastral zone AO5, Maitama District Abuja; a duplex at Phase 1 Unit No. 1 (Villa 1) Palm Springs Gold Estate, Cachez Turkey Projects Limited, Mpape, Abuja; 10 units of one-room apartments at 8 Mistrata Street plot 232 Cadastral zone Wuse 11 Abuja; 5 units duplexes at Plot No 1070 Dakibiyu District Cadastral zone B10, Abuja; 16 units service apartments at Plot 1181 Thaba Tseka Crescent, Off IBB Way, Wuse 11, Abuja and 3 units of three- bedroom flats at No. 1 Mubi Close, Plot 766. Cadastral Zone A01, Garki, Abuja. Sylva was first arraigned on Tuesday June 5, 2012.

The Charges

The first three of the six count charge against him read: "That you, Timpre Sylva, as Governor of Bayelsa State, with others now at large, sometime between October, 2009 and February, 2010, at various places in Nigeria, including Abuja, within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court did conspire to commit a crime to wit: conversion of property and resources amounting to N2 billion belonging to Bayelsa State Government and derived from an illegal act, with the aim of concealing the illicit origin of the said amount and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 17(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition Act), 2004 and punishable under Section 14(1) of the same Act.

"That you, Timipre Sylva, as Governor of Bayelsa State, with others now at large, on or about January 22, 2010, at Abuja, within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, converted the sum of N380 million property of the Bayelsa State Government, through the account of one Habibu Sani Maigidia, a Bureau De Change Operator with Account No. 221433478108, in Fin Bank, Plc, which sum you knew represented the proceeds of an illegal act with the aim of concealing the nature of the proceeds of the said illegal act and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 14(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition Act) 2004 and also punishable under section 14(1) of the same Act.

"That you, Timipre Sylva, as Governor of Bayelsa State, with others now at large, on or about February 5, 2010, at Abuja, within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, converted the sum of N50 million, property of the Bayelsa State Government, through the account of one Enson Benmer Limited with Account No. 6152030001946, in First Bank, Plc, which sum you knew represented the proceeds of an illegal act with the aim of concealing the nature of the proceeds of the said illegal act and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 14(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition Act) 2004 and also punishable under section 14(1) of the same Act."

The substantive suit has been adjourned to January 10, 2013, for trial.

Embattled former Governor Sylva has reacted to the move by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to confiscate his property calling the anti-corruption agency to respect the law.

Sylva in a statement by his media adviser, Mr. Doifie Ola, said the Abuja High Court never granted any temporary asset forfeiture order to the EFCC.

He said the court directed the EFCC to put Sylva on notice and the substantive matter is fixed for January 10, 2013.

The statement reads: "Our attention has been drawn to a statement purportedly issued by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, announcing the seizure of a number of property alleged to be owned by Chief Timipre Sylva, former Bayelsa State Governor.

"The claims by EFCC are completely misleading. Not surprising, this style is in line with EFCC's known bully-boy tactics and media hysteria. The houses in question do not belong to Sylva.

Sylva's property are intact, and fully covered by the order validly issued by Justice M. Kolo of the Abuja High Court on December 27, 2012. Sylva had applied to the court for "an interim order of court for the service of the originating process on the respondent to serve as a stay of all actions in respect of the property - plot no 262, Cadastral Zone A02, Wuse 1, District, Abuja, plot 3192, located within Cadastral zone A06 Maitama District, Abuja, plot 232, Cadastral Zone A07,(No. 8 Mistrata Street; Wuse II, Abuja) - by the respondents, their agents, privies, representative or any other person deriving his/her authority from them; either by sealing off, confiscating, ejecting any person from the property, trespassing into the property or doing any other thing how ever so described relating to the said property pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice." This application was granted and hearing in the matter is fixed for January 4, 2013.

"Justice A. Mohammed never granted any temporary asset forfeiture order to EFCC on December 21, 2012. Rather he directed EFCC to put Sylva on notice and the substantive matter is fixed for January 10, 2013. EFCC as a creation of the law cannot be seen to be acting lawlessly and with impunity."

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