The National Crime Agency of the United Kingdom, The Crown Prosecution Service (UK) alongside other foreign-based defendants have been dealt a huge blow in the case against Aiteo Boss, Billionaire Benedict Peters. A High Court sitting in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, on Monday June 25, 2018, ordered the parties to maintain the status quo until the hearing of the main issues in the case. This is the third time a court is making an order of this nature against the Commission and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).
Benedict Peters demanded $5billion in compensation, for what he describes as a series of unlawful and fraudulent conspiracies allegedly organised by the EFCC, AGF, the National Crime Agency and Crown Prosecution Service (UK) and individuals, Helen Hughes, Stacey Boniface, and John Bavister, “to expropriate by intimidation, assets, properties, monies to which he is legitimately entitled.”
In suit number FCT/HC/CV0536/17, the court has heard that properties belonging exclusively to Benedict Peters were wrongfully included in a list of properties alleged to belong to Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, the former Minister of Petroleum in Nigeria, and that despite abundant evidence showing that Peters owned the properties, the defendants maliciously and deliberately continued to suppress the information with the intent not only to permanently deprive him of the properties but to destroy him as well as his business interests. In the proceedings, which has been described as falling within the “fraud of Carousel Tort”, the plaintiff seeks judicial protection and compensation.
At the hearing which came up in courts yesterday and monitored by our Abuja correspondent, Benedict Peters asked the court to restrain EFCC and the other UK-based agencies from “interfering/continued interference with the properties…either by way of criminal indictment, charge, interdiction, extradition or in any other manner infringing in the quiet and peaceable enjoyment of the said properties.”
This was in response to what appears to be a continuation of racially induced, religiously prejudiced, discriminatory and executive persecution by especially the UK to deprive the plaintiff on the basis of questionable and frivolous “evidences”. Peters who has been involved in a number of litigation with the Commission has become the subject of sustained investigations over the last few years despite the fact that he has consistently stated that there is no basis or evidence to support such continuing prejudicial interest in him. Curiously, many active persons involved in the case at the NCA have resigned recently. Could it be their conscience leading to that development? Only time will tell.
Mr A T Gazali, Counsel to the AGF, challenged the court’s jurisdiction, arguing that the defendants were entitled to the protection of sovereign immunity. He also told the court that Peters had instituted a number of other cases which covered the issues he was asking the court to decide upon. Chief Mike Ozekhome SAN, who led a team of lawyers for Benedict Peters asked the court to reject the objection as being misconceived because it was based on the erroneous belief that the Benedict Peter was trying to set aside orders of the UK court.
Apart from the EFCC, the foreign agencies and individuals who are defendants in the case retained services of the AGF as their Counsel in the matter. They were represented by a British Foreign Secretary, Alan David Pumplin.
EFCC was neither present nor represented in the court. The Defendants were also not ready to proceed because their lawyers were not prepared. Chief Ozekhome complained to the judge, arguing that the purpose of the Benedict Peters’ application was to ask the court to protect him from the prejudice and hardship that EFCC’s continuing actions were causing him until the issues in the case were tried by the court.
After listening to the arguments of both counsel, the court made an order enjoining the parties to maintain the status quo. By this order, all the parties in the suit are now compelled to refrain from taking any further step or embarking on any activity or action that relates to the subject matter of the suit till preliminary objections are disposed.
The court’s ruling implies that EFCC and all parties concerned should henceforth restrain from further activities and let the court do its job of weighing all evidences and determining the facts of the case.
The judge consequently adjourned the case to a date to be communicated to the parties.