Court Confiscates Tompolo’s Properties
Justice Ibrahim Buba of a Federal High Court in Lagos friday ordered the forfeiture of multi-billion naira properties belonging to a former Niger Delta militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo alias Tompolo, following his refusal to appear in court over allegation of money laundering and stealing of about N34 billion belonging to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
Properties to be forfeited include; a River Crew Change Boat named MUHA – 15, the property known as “Tompolo Dockyard”, by the end of Enerhen Road, Effurun, Warri and the property known as “Tompolo Yard”, at the end of Chevron Clinic Road, next to Next Oil, Edjeba, Warri.
Others are, the Diving School at Kurutie, at Escravos River, the property known as “Tompolo House” at Oporoza Town, opposite the Palace and any other property discovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, moveable and immoveable, belonging to the Tompolo
Justice Buba had on January 14 issued a bench warrant against Tompolo for failing to honour a court summons dated January 12 in respect of a 40-count of alleged N34bn fraud levelled against him and nine others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Those charged alongside Tompolo are: Patrick Akpobolokemi, Global West Vessel, Odimiri Electrical Ltd, Kime Engozu. Boloboere Ltd, Rex Elem, Destre Ltd, Gregory Mbonu and Captain Warrendi Enisuoh.
The suspects allegedly diverted N34 billion which accrued from the public private partnership agreement between NIMASA and Global West Vessel Specialist Limited for personal use.
At the resumed hearing of the matter yesterday, counsel to EFCC, Festus Keyamo, told the court that the warrant of arrest issued by the court had not been executed despite the “best efforts” of all the security agencies in the country.
He stated that all the nation’s security agencies were involved in the search of Tompolo but his whereabouts were not known yet.
Consequently, he sought the leave of court to amend the charge by removing the name of Tompolo so that the trial of other accused persons could commence.
Keyamo also drew the attention of the court to a motion ex-parte dated February 18, 2016 praying the court for an order authorising EFCC to seize properties belonging to the former militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo.
But, virtually all the defence counsel opposed the motion ex-parte on the grounds that they were not served with copies of the motion.
Dr. Joseph Nwobike SAN (counsel to the 2nd defendant), Mr. Wale Akoni SAN (counsel to 7 & 8 defendants) along with other defence lawyers argued that it was necessary for them to have copies of the motion ex-parte in the interest of justice and fairness.
However, Justice Buba ruled that a motion ex parte needed not to be served on parties adding that the motion was specifically directed to the first accused (Tompolo) who was neither in court nor represented by a lawyer.
Moving the motion brought pursuant to Sections 80 and 81 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, Keyamo prayed the court order the forfeiture of properties belonging to Tompolo pending the time he would appear in court.
He stated after three months, the court can order the properties to be auctioned if he (Tompolo) did not make himself available in court.
In his ruling, Justice Buba held that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 empowers the court to seize properties of an accused who refused to face trial.
The court recalled that even though Tompolo refused to appear in court he briefed his lawyers and through them sought to vacate the order of his arrest.
Consequently, he ordered forfeiture of properties belonging to Tompolo pending the time he chose to appear in court.
The following assets belonging to Tompolo were attached and to be forfeited; Property at No. 1 Chief Agbamu Close DDPA Extension Warri (Effurun), Delta State among others.
Justice Buba however refused to attach all the limited liability companies listed by the EFCC until their proof of ownership was revealed to the court.
The Limited liability companies include; Global West Vessel Specialist Limited, Odimiri Electrical Limited and Kime Engozu, Boloboere Property and Estate Limited, Rex Elem, Destre Consult limited, Gregory Mbonu and Captain Warredi Enisuoh respectively.
EFCC had in an affidavit in support of the motion exparte deposed to by one Adah John Adah, a litigation officer in the law firm of Festus Keyamo stated that Tompolo was invited by the EFCC on several occasions to come and answer to the allegations of fraudulent activities leveled against him which was uncovered during investigation.
He averred that Tompolo was charged before the court to answer to charges leveled against him when he persistently refused and failed to honour the several invitations extended to him.
He added that the court had on January 12 ,2016 issued warrant of arrest against Tompolo, he has absconded and concealed himself from all security forces in the country to frustrate the execution of the warrant of Arrest.
The deponent added that rather than present himself to the court, Tompolo engaged the services of Tayo Oyetibo, SAN who filed a Motion dated 27th day of January, 2016 to set aside the Warrant of Arrest. He added that the said motion was dismissed by the court on February 8, 2016.
He stated that since the Order for the arrest was issued against Tompolo, the combined team of the Nigerian police and the military had been combing the creeks and the entire nation for his arrest but he continued to abscond and conceal himself.
He stated that EFCC operatives had carried out investigation and received intelligence report to the effect that the listed properties belong to Tompolo.
The matter has been adjourned till March 22 for hearing.
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