Paris Club refund scam: Court orders ‘consultant’ to forfeit N1.4bn

Oladimeji Ramon

The Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday ordered the temporary forfeiture of a total of N1,442,384,857.84 found in the bank accounts of three firms, which allegedly impersonated the consultants engaged by the Nigeria Governors’ Forum to analyse the Paris/London Club loan refunds due to the states.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which obtained the forfeiture order on Friday, claimed that the defendants obtained N4.3bn from the Nigeria Governors’ Forum by making false claims.

Listed as defendants in an ex parte application taken before the court on Friday were Melrose General Services Limited, WASP Networks Limited and Thebe Wellness Services.

The firms were accused of impersonating a consortium of consulting firms engaged by the governors’ forum for the “verification, reconciliation and recovery of over-deductions on Paris and London Club Loans on the accounts of states and local governments between 1995 and 2002.”

The EFCC said the original firms engaged by the governors’ forum were GSCL Consulting and Bizplus Consulting Services Limited.

But an investigator with the EFCC, Usman Zakari, said the alter ego of the first defendant, Melrose General Services Limited, Robert Mbonu, made a false representation to the governors’ forum, causing the forum to pay N3.5bn to his company on December 14, 2016.

Zakari said the money was credited into the Access Bank account of Melrose General Services Limited, adding that the respondents dissipated and laundered about N2.3bn out of the money between December 15, 2016, and January 20, 2017, leaving a balance of N1.2bn.

Zakari said the anti-graft agency had recovered N220m out of the laundered sum from the second and third respondents.

Counsel for the EFCC, Ekene Iheanacho, told Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, on Friday, that it would best serve the interest of justice for the respondents to be ordered to forfeit the N1.4bn temporarily to prevent them from dissipating same.

The judge granted the application and ordered the EFCC to publish the order in a national daily.

She gave anyone interested in the funds 14 days to appear before her to show cause why the funds should not be forfeited permanently.

Further proceedings were adjourned till October 30, 2017.

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