The Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered the temporary forfeiture of Victoria East Park Hotel and Suites located along Igbogbo-Mayegun Road, Ikorodu, Lagos over an alleged fraud of N53.7 million.
Justice Chuka Obiozor ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to take over the hotel for 21 days to enable it to conclude its investigation of the alleged fraud.
The EFCC had, in an ex parte application on Tuesday, July 18, 2017 told the court that it believed that the hotel was acquired with proceeds of fraud by one Ebiesuwa Fredrick, who is believed to be the ringleader of a syndicate of fraudsters based in Ibadan and with accomplices in Lagos.
Counsel for the EFCC, Ayanfeoluwa Ogunsina, told Justice Obiozor that the anti-graft agency sought to take over the hotel so as to prevent the fraudsters from disposing of it while investigation was still ongoing, thereby “defeating the end of justice.”
Ogunsina said the EFCC was investigating Fredrick and members of his fraud syndicate who were still at large, based on a petition it received from one Dunni Olagbegi, who claimed to have been duped to the tune of N53.7 million by the suspects.
An investigating officer with the EFCC, Chris Odofin, who deposed to an affidavit filed in support of the ex parte application, stated that, “The antics of these fraudsters include luring people into their criminal den where they present one of them as a pastor, hypnotise their victim, make the victim take an oath never to reveal what they say or do and then use all sorts of deceitful methods to collect money from the victim.
“Preliminary investigation revealed that the respondent (Fredrick) is a member of the syndicate of fraudsters that specialise in duping unsuspecting members of the society and have duped several people through this means and are still on the prowl, seeking more people to devour.
“The respondent and some members of his syndicate are based in Ibadan while they also have accomplices in Lagos.
“They launder the proceeds of their criminal activities through acquisition of landed properties within and outside Ibadan with a view to legitimising and integrating their ill-gotten wealth into the mainstream economy, despite the fact that they have no legitimate sources of income.”
After entertaining argument by the EFCC lawyer, Ogunsina, Justice Obiozor, in a short ruling, granted the application, empowering the anti-graft agency to take over Victoria East Park Hotel and Suites for 21 days.
The judge directed the anti-graft agency to paste the court order in a conspicuous place on the premises of the hotel.
He adjourned further proceedings in the case till August 9, 2017.
By Chinyere Obia