A Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to release all items seized from a social media influencer, Ismaila Mustapha popularly known as Mompha.
The items include five luxury wristwatches, an Apple iPod, an iPhone 8 device, and a pair of sunglasses, which were among other items found on him on his arrest last October 19, in Abuja.
Justice Liman made the order while ruling on a July 6 application filed by Mompha’s counsel, Mr. Gboyega Oyewole.
Rotimi Oyedepo, the EFCC counsel had told the judge that it had earlier released Mompha’s Air Pod and sunglasses when the application was filed.
He said the other properties Mompha sought were still with the commission for investigative purposes.
Mompha is standing trial alongside his company, Ismalob Global Investment Ltd, on an amended twenty two-count charge bordering on cyber fraud and money laundering to the tune of N33 billion.
Ruling on Friday, July 24, 2020, Justice Mohammed Liman noted that although the prosecution has the right to seize property during an arrest, likewise a duty to approach the court for an interim order, due processes must be observed and failure to do this is considered illegal.
He noted further that the items had been with the EFCC for eight months already.
Liman held: “None of these items was listed as an exhibit, none of the items was listed on the charge. At this stage, there is nothing on record that the items seized are being investigated on.
“The retention of the property without compliance with due process violates the requirements of Section 29 of the Act”
“Failure to release the property is illegal. As of today, no charge has been file regards the items. It is too long to withhold the applicant’s properties.”
Liman, therefore, ordered the release and return of the items to the defendant.
The defendant also applied for the release of his international passport, which was not opposed by the prosecution.
Mompha is on trial on an alleged N33 billion money laundering and cyber fraud charge.
He and his firm were on March 4, 2020, re-arraigned before Justice Mohammed Liman on 22 counts.
They were first arraigned on a 14-count count charge last November 25, following his arrest last October 19, at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
According to the anti-graft agency, the defendant is based in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, UAE.
The Commission alleged that Mompha is a major figure in an organised transnational cyber fraud network, adding that he used Ismalob Investment to launder the funds, part of which he used in acquiring properties in Dubai.
Mompha pleaded not guilty and is out on bail.
Source: The Nation