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Appeal Court affirms AITEO boss ownership of UK properties

From Godwin Tsa, Abuja

The Abuja division of the Court of Appeal has ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to release two London properties belonging to billionaire business man, Benedict Peters as they were wrongly forfeited.

In dismissing the appeal by the anti-graft agency on the subject matter, the appellate court agreed with the judgment of Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court that the said properties legitimately belonged to Peters and cannot be forfeited to any government.

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EFCC had approached the Appeal Court seeking to upturn the judgment of the Federal High Court that had ordered the Commission to release the properties to the AITEO boss.

However, after considering the arguments put before it on behalf of both parties, the Appeal Court upheld as sound and unimpeachable, all the issues and premises upon which the High Court reached the decision in the court below.

The appellate Court held that the trial court was right to have relied on a different judgment of the High Court of the Federal Capital that had earlier found that Peters and his companies had established sufficient financial means to have acquired the properties In so doing, the Appeal Court affirmed the decision of both high courts on Peters’ financial capacity.

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Accordingly, the Appeal Court confirmed that the properties belonged to Mr. Peters and his companies and were not to be forfeited to any government.

Speaking on the judgment, human rights lawyer, Obed Okwukwe, described the judgment as a significant victory for the rule of law in Nigeria in upholding the well-considered reasoning in the judgments in the lower courts.

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Encouraging the EFCC now to give effect to both judgments, the lawyers further observed that this judgment reiterates the importance of a strong judiciary in maintaining the balance between law and justice.

It would be recalled that the EFCC had earlier obtained an interim order of forfeiture from Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court with respect to two London properties belonging to Benedict Peters following which he successfully obtained an order from the same court before vacating the orders and directing their return to him.

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