Justice Muhammed Liman of the Federal High Court, Lagos on Thursday, dismissed its order of interim forfeiture made against the property of the immediate past Senate President, Olubukola Saraki.
The court had on October 21, 2019, while granting an ex parte application brought before it by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, and argued by its counsel, Nnemeka Omewa, ordered the interim forfeiture of the two properties located on 17 and 17a, McDonald Road, Ikoyi, Eti-Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State, which were said to have been acquired with proceeds of unlawful activity.
The court commenced hearing on the motion for final forfeiture of the said properties on February 6, 2020
But on Thursday, the court held that the essence of an interim order of forfeiture is to preserve the property from being dissipated by the suspect, that the burden is on the applicant, (EFCC), to satisfy the court that the property was acquired with proceeds of an unlawful or illegal activity under the corruption laws.
The court, however, found that the applicant, in its affidavit in support of its motion for final forfeiture, stated that the properties sought to be forfeited were purchased with a personal loan Saraki obtained from Guaranty Trust Bank.
In agreement with a submission by the respondent’s counsel, Kehinde Ogunwumiju, the court stated that the burden of proof for final forfeiture is on the preponderance of evidence and that the applicant had failed to show that the money used to purchase the property was from the Kwara State Government House account.
The court was not satisfied that the respondent had paid off the loan used to purchase the property.
According to the ruling, the evidence of the transactions presented by the applicant was in respect of transactions made after Saraki had purchased the property and the proceeds used for the purchase were legal.
In the final analysis, the court held that the applicant failed to prove its entitlement to the relief of final forfeiture of the respondent’s properties, hence dismissed the application and vacated the interim forfeiture order.