Kennedy Izuagbe, a Lagos businessman and one of the fronts used by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, to launder funds, has filed an application at the Federal High Court in Lagos to stop the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from arresting and prosecuting him.
Mr. Izuagbe is urging the court to relist his fundamental human rights enforcement suit, which was previously struck out for lack of diligent prosecution. The applicant, alongside Carlisle Properties and Investment Limited and its directors/shareholders, were exposed by the EFCC as being involved in the laundering of huge sums of money stolen by Mr. Saraki from Kwara State to purchase choice properties that was a subject of Saraki's trial at the Code of Conduct tribunal.
The renewed interest in the lawsuit he had earlier abandoned is on account of plans by the EFCC to commence investigations and prosecution in the case.
In an affidavit sworn to by a lawyer, Mr. Efut Okoi, and filed before the court by an Abuja-based legal practitioner, Mr. Mahmud Magaji (SAN), the deponent averred that Mr. Izuagbe rebooted the lawsuit against former EFCC’s Director Operations, Mr. Olaolu Adegbite, and the Attorney-General of the Federation to restrain the anti-graft agency from arresting and detaining him.
Mr. Okoi further averred that on September 10 2015, the applicant prayed the court, through an ex parte application, to restrain the EFFC and the Attorney-General from unlawfully arresting him pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
The order, he stated, was granted by the presiding judge, Justice A. Yahaya, and directed that the applicants should serve the order on the defendants and return to the court for a report of service.
The deponent equally averred that following the retirement of Justice Yahaya, the case was re-assigned without the knowledge of the applicants, after which the matter was adjourned four times before it was struck out by Justice Olawale Faji for lack of diligent prosecution.
Mr. Okoi stated that the applicants were not aware of those adjourned dates, as they were not in receipt of any hearing notices of the court.
As a result, the applicants are urging the court to set aside the order of the court striking out the suit and restore the case to the court's cause list.
In a bid to forestall his arrest and detention, Mr. Izuagbe and the other applicants had dragged EFCC before the court, joining the EFCC Director of Operations and the Attorney-General of the Federation as co-defendants.
In a statement in support of the application to enforce his fundamental right filed before the court by Mr. Magaji (SAN), Mr. Izuagbe, who is the Managing Director of Carlisle Properties, stated that he was first invited by the EFCC on November 13, 2014. He also stated that after rounds of interrogation, he did not hear from EFCC until April 29, 2015, when he was re-invited. On his return, the EFCC requested for some documents, including the one on how the Senate President purchased his landed properties that Carlisle manages, but he told agency that inquiries about properties owned by Mr. Saraki should be addressed to the Senate President.
Mr. Izuagbe said he was, however, surprised to notice that the EFCC had been feeding the media with information that the portfolio of his company is traceable to theft of public funds and proceeds of corruption by its beneficial owners.
On August 26, 2015, while in the United States on holiday, Mr. Izuagbe said he was informed that EFCC came to the headquarters of his company with a lorry load of policemen, ransacked the place and went away with many documents. Based on this, he approached the court for an order restraining the EFCC from further intimidating and harassing him and staff of the firm.
But in a counter-affidavit by the EFCC Legal Officer, Mr. Israel Akande, filed before the court and deposed to by one Mutairu Olusesi, the agency denied almost all of Mr. Izuagbe’s claims.
Mr. Akande said the commission is investigating a case of money laundering involving Saraki in which it discovered several lodgments of cash and monetary instruments by companies linked to the Senate President and regular cash inflows into his personal account by his aides and others yet to be identified. The aggregate of the inflows, stated the EFCC, were N15 billion and $13 million.
Mr. Akande averred further that the situation peaked in October 2009, when 88 different persons paid a total amount of N80 million into Mr. Saraki’s account on the same day. This triggered an investigation to unravel the sources of the fund.
In the course of the investigation, it was discovered that Mr. Izuagbe is the Managing Director of Carlisle Properties and Investment, the company that received the funds from several individuals and over 150 companies.
Acting on behalf of the Senate President, Mr. Izuagbe directed that the inflows into the company’s account be wired to offshore accounts to those that laundered them for Mr. Saraki to purchase properties abroad.
Based on the investigation being conducted and considering the weighty allegations leveled against Mr. Izuagbe, the EFCC added, he was invited with a view to obtaining his reaction to the allegations.
He made voluntary statements and was asked to report back. However, during the course of the investigation, he broke the news of his mother’s death and was allowed to go on compassionate grounds. Since then, stated the EFCC, he became incommunicado, thereby hampering the investigation.
When all efforts to reach him proved abortive, explained the commission, a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Mr. Akande averred further that EFCC is statutorily empowered to cause an investigation to be conducted as to whether an individual or corporate entity has committed any economic or financial crimes. Therefore, restraining EFCC from further investigations into economic or financial crimes reported to it will encourage criminally- minded persons to hide under the protection of the court.
He thus urged the court to reject the request of the applicants.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the application.