Justice Bolaji Olajuwon of the Federal high court in Abuja has dismissed a suit by Marine Assets and Offshore Equipment Limited, an oil and gas service firm seeking to stop investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Marine Assets and Offshore Equipment Limited and its General Manager, Olusegun Olaleye sought to stop the EFCC from probing the payment of $38 million into their accounts.
On Thursday, the judge rejected all the relief sought by the plaintiffs and held that the case lacked merit.
What happened in court
Counsel to the company, Mike Ozekhome, SAN argued that the investigation of the plaintiffs’ activities amounts to harassment which was unlawful.
EFCC’s counsel, Ekele Iheanacho told the court that the allegations were established against the plaintiffs hence, required investigation.
Mr Iheanacho said there was no record of any business done by the 1st plaintiff and Airsafe Aviation Global Limited since their incorporation by the CAC in 2018.
He said investigations revealed that between March, 2018 and April, 2019, one Jokai Global Services Limited transferred to the UBA Plc accounts of the 1st plaintiff the sums of 89,716,591.37 dollars and N18,555,337,336,86.
Speaking further the lawyer said “Between March 2018 and April, 2019, the same Jokai Global Services Limited transferred into the UBA Plc account of Airsafe Aviation Global Limited the sums of 13,041, 641.35 dollars and N1,489,401,426.65.
“The transactions referred to above, which generated these funds were vague and obscure.
“None of these companies mentioned above, as well as others that featured in the intelligence, declared their activities by way of filing financial statements, annual reports to regulatory authorities like the FIRS, CAC, etc.
“These companies never paid taxes despite the humongous payments they received into their accounts.
“The high volume of funds received into the accounts of the 1st plaintiff shortly after its incorporation, necessitated the need to even inquire into its tax records with a view to determine the lawfulness or otherwise of the financial activities of the 1st plaintiff.”
In her ruling, the judge held that contrary to the plaintiffs’ argument, the EFCC has the right to investigate tax evasion within its powers to investigate economic and financial crimes.
The judge, who rejected all the reliefs sought by the plaintiffs, dismissed the case for lacking merit.
The plaintiffs had instituted the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1529/2020 seeking an order of the court to restrain EFCC from investigating them.
According to EFCC, the plaintiffs are being investigated alongside others for conspiracy, money laundering and theft to the tune of $38,198,624.08 which was paid into Marine Assets’ accounts within four months.
EFCC submitted that on January 25, 2019, it received intelligence “bordering on a monumental case of conspiracy, money laundering and stealing against the 1st plaintiff (Marine Assets), its alter ego and some other associated companies and individuals.
“The intelligence reveals that the 1st plaintiff, its directors alongside other companies like Airsafe Aviation Global Limited, used multiple accounts to move funds in and out of Nigeria to the tune of 38,198,624.08 dollars between September, 2017 and December, 2018, without any clear underlying/legitimate business transaction.
“On receipt of the intelligence, the defendant (EFCC) commenced investigation by writing to relevant commercial banks, the Corporate Affairs Commission, the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) amongst other agencies of government.
“We interviewed some individuals and companies, whose names featured in the investigation (including the 1st plaintiff through its General Manager (Operations),” EFCC’s lawyer submitted.