Justice Peter Lifu of the Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday ordered the interim forfeiture of the houses and cars linked to Obinwanne Okeke, popularly known as Invictus Obi, who the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission described as “a strong leader of a cyber-crime syndicate that specialised in business e-mail compromise.”
Based on an ex parte application filed by the EFCC, Justice Lifu ordered the temporary forfeiture of Obi’s two properties designated as House 4, Oakville Estate, Kado Kuchi, Abuja; a 5-bedroom duplex at Standard Estate, Kabusa, Abuja; a Toyota Corolla with number plate RBC6238N and an unregistered Toyota Corolla Sport vehicle.
Obi was arrested in the United States of America over an alleged $11million cyber fraud and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
He was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation after being implicated as the ringleader of a cybercrime syndicate that had defrauded some Americans to the tune of $11million “through fraudulent wire transfer instructions in a massive, coordinated, business e-mail compromise scheme.”
An operative of the EFCC, Usman Abdulhamid, said in an affidavit filed in support of the ex parte application, that, “On further investigation by the commission, two more properties were traced belonging to the convict, along with two vehicles parked in the residence. This application is pertinent to restitute the victims of the fraud through the United States of America Consulate.
“This matter is of very urgent public interest and concern as it directly tarnishes the image of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Nigeria among the comity of nations.
“The properties sought to be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria by the applicant were not procured through legitimate earnings of the respondent but are reasonably suspected to be part of the fraudulent activities which the respondent has been convicted for.”
Justice Lifu, after listening to the argument of the EFCC counsel, Chineye Okezie, held that the application was meritorious and subsequently ordered the interim forfeiture of the houses and vehicles.
He said, “I have listened to the submission of the counsel to the applicant vis-a-vis affidavit filed in support. I hold in my considered view that this application is meritorious and ought to be granted. Consequently, this application is hereby granted as prayed.”
After granting the order as prayed, Justice Lifu directed the EFCC to publish the temporary forfeiture order in a widely read newspaper in Nigeria within 14 days and adjourned till November 30 for any interested party to appear before him to show cause why the order should not be permanent.