By Akin Kuponiyi
A Federal High Court Sitting in Lagos south west Nigeria today ordered the temporary forfeiture of N280.5million “warehoused” in the bank accounts of Invictus Oil and Gas Limited and Invictus Investment Limited alleged to have been owned by Obinwanne Okeke “a strong leader of a cybercrime syndicate specialized in business email compromise.”
Okeke, popularly known as Invictus, is standing trial in the United States of American over an alleged $11.5m cyber fraud.
The 31-year-old Nigerian, who was in 2016 celebrated by Forbes as one of Africa’s most outstanding 30 entrepreneurs under the age of 30 and described by the magazine as “proof that there is hope for Africa,” was arrested in August this year by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation as the ringleader of a cybercrime syndicate, which had defrauded a number of American citizens to the tune of $11m “through fraudulent wire transfer instructions in a massive coordinated business email compromise scheme.”
The order of the court was as a result of an application filed and argued before the court by the EFCC Legal officer Rotimi Oyedepo
The presiding Judge, Justice Rilwan Aikawa made an order for the temporary forfeiture of the sums of N240,250,904.46 and N40,304,106.19, which the anti-graft agency said it found warehoused in First City Monument Bank Plc accounts of Invictus Oil and Gas Limited and Invictus Investment Limited, respectively.
Mr Oyedepo told the court that the funds were reasonably suspected to be proceeds of cybercrime and urged the judge to order their forfeiture to the Federal Government to prevent Okeke from dissipating same.
In an affidavit filed in support of the application, EFCC investigator, Ariyo Muritala, said the commission assigned him and others to investigate a request for information on Okeke and three others by the United States Department of Justice, Office of the Legal Attache, US Consulate General.
“I know as a fact and verily believe that our investigation has revealed the following far-aching and mind-boggling findings:
*That the Obinwanne George Okeke is a strong leader of a cybercrime syndicate specialized in business email compromise.
* That the said syndicate has defrauded many innocent and unsuspecting victims, That the said Obiwanne George Okeke has been arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States of America for cybercrime-related offences
*That if these funds are not forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria Obiwanne George Okeke and his cronies will dissipate same,” Muritala said in the said sworn affidavit.
Oyedepo argued that Justice Aikawa had the power to make the interim forfeiture order by virtue of Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and other related Fraud Offence Act No. 14, 2006.
The judge acceded to the request and ordered the temporary forfeiture of the funds