The Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday ordered the forfeiture of N280m “warehoused” in the bank accounts of Invictus Oil and Gas Limited and Invictus Investment Limited.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission told the court that the two firms were owned by Obinwanne Okeke, “a strong leader of a cybercrime syndicate specialised in business email compromise”.
Okeke, popularly known as Invictus, is currently standing trial in the United States of America over an alleged $11m 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 Federal Bureau of Investigation as the ringleader of a cybercrime syndicate, which had defrauded a number of US citizens to the tune of $11m “through fraudulent wire transfer instructions in a massive coordinated business email compromise scheme”.
Following an ex-parte application by the EFCC on Monday, 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 the Nigerian bank accounts of Invictus Oil and Gas Limited and Invictus Investment Limited, respectively.
EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi 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 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.
He said, “I know as a fact and verily believe that our investigation has revealed the following ear-aching and mind-boggling findings: (a) That the Obinwanne George Okeke is a strong leader of a cybercrime syndicate specialised in business email compromise.
“(b) That the said syndicate has defrauded many innocent and unsuspecting victims.
“(g) 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.
“(h) That if these funds are not forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria, Obiwanne George Okeke and his cronies will dissipate same.”
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 agreed with him and ordered the temporary forfeiture of the funds.