Two choice shopping malls allegedly acquired by a serving Resident Electoral Commissioner with her share of a bribe dished out by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ahead of last year’s general elections, have been seized by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
A sum of N49 million found in the bank account of the REC, Gesil Khan, has also been frozen by the EFCC.
A total of N23.29b was disbursed under the poll bribery scam allegedly facilitated by ex-Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, of which N185, 842,000 went to Khan.
The anti-graft agency applied to the Federal High Court, Yenagoa for Interim Forfeiture Order in line with sections 26 and 29 of the EFCC Act to take over the account and the buildings which are located in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital.
Other beneficiaries of the largesse in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and some PDP stalwarts are said to have refunded N503million to EFCC.
Of the N503 million thus refunded, N200million came from a former Military Administrator of Akwa Ibom State, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga ( rtd).
A total of N450million was allegedly traced to him.
The EFCC is yet to conclude its investigation of the INEC staff and PDP stalwarts who were implicated in the poll bribery scandal.
Khan and other INEC officers are being probed for allegedly collecting N681million altogether.
The other INEC officers already grilled in connection with the matter are: Fidelia Omoile (Electoral Officer in Isoko-South Local Government Area of Delta State)-N112,480,000 ; Uluochi Obi Brown (INEC’s Administrative Secretary in Delta State)-N111,500,000; a former Deputy Director of INEC in Cross River State, Edem Okon Effanga-N241,127,000 and the Head of Voter Education in INEC in Akwa Ibom, Immaculata Asuquo-N214,127,000.
A source familiar with the case said: “We have been able to trace two choice shopping malls in Yenagoa to the affected REC Khan. Following the development, we applied to a Federal High Court for Interim Forfeiture Order in line with sections 26 and 29 of the EFCC Act.
“The court has granted our prayers to seize the two malls and appoint managers to take care of the properties in order to generate more revenue either for the government or the owner depending on how the trial ends.
“We do not want the assets to lie fallow hence we recruited managers to be in charge until investigation and trial are concluded.
“During investigation, we discovered N49million in the account of REC Khan. Since she could not fully account for the sources of the money, we have frozen the account in line with our mandate.
“We are treating the money as likely proceeds of bribery or money laundering. The account will remain frozen until a court of law decides otherwise based on facts we will present during her trial.”
Sections 26 and 29 of the EFCC Act read in part: “Any property subject to forfeiture under this Act may be seized by the commission in the following circumstances- (a) the seizure is incidental to an arrest or search; or (b) in the case of property liable to forfeiture upon process issued by the Court following an application made by the Commission in accordance with the prescribed rules
“Whenever property is seized under any of the provisions of this Act, the Commission may- (a) place the property under seal; or (b) remove the property to a place designated by the Commission.
“Properties taken or detained under this section shall be deemed to be in custody of the Commission, subject only to an order of a Court.”
Sections 28 and 34 of the EFCC (Establishment Act) 2004 and Section 13(1) of the Federal High Court Act, 2004 empower the anti-graft agency to invoke Interim Assets Forfeiture Clause.
“Section 28 of the EFCC Act reads: ‘Where a person is arrested for an offence under this Act, the Commission shall immediately trace and attach all the assets and properties of the person acquired as a result of such economic or financial crime and shall thereafter cause to be obtained an interim attachment order from the Court.’
Section 13 of the Federal High Court Act reads in part : “The Court may grant an injunction or appoint a receiver by an interlocutory order in all cases in which it appears to the Court to be just or convenient so to do.
(2)”Any such order may be made either unconditionally or on such terms and conditions as the Court thinks just.”
Investigation showed that about N503million has so far been recovered from the INEC staff and some PDP stalwarts by the Port Harcourt Zonal Office of the anti-graft agency.
The source added: “The Port Harcourt Zonal office has done excellently well in line with the vision of the EFCC chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu. It has so far recovered about N904million from January to August 17, including N503million from INEC staff and politicians involved in the poll bribery scandal.
“Out of the N503million, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (rtd) refunded N200million from the N450million traced to him.
“Nkanga allegedly collected the money in two tranches, from a staff of Fidelity Bank in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State: Mr. Saint- Anthony Ejiowu.
“The first tranche of the money, a sum of N350,000,000 was collected on March 27, 2015 while the second tranch of N100,000,000 was collected on March 31, 2015. Nkanga signed for the two tranches.
“We will soon release the list of INEC staff that have refunded cash. But we have been sending brief to INEC management on all their staff under investigation and the status of each case.
“So far, INEC management is cooperating with us. When it is time to arraign such staff in court, we hope they will release them accordingly.”