Temporary reprieve may have come the way of a social media influencer, Ismaila Mustapha popularly known as Mompha, as Justice Mohammed Liman of a Federal High Court ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC to release all items seized from him when he was arrested.
Justice Liman made the order on Friday while ruling on an application filed by the defendant’s counsel, Mr. Gboyega Oyewole, SAN in asking the court for the order to release the seized items.
Items asked to be returned are five wristwatches, an apple iPod, an IPhone 8 device and one sunglass found on him upon his arrest and subsequently seized for the purpose of investigation.
Mompha is standing trial alongside his company, Ismalob Global Investment Limited on an amended 22-count charge bordering on cyber fraud and money laundering to the tune of N33bn.
The defendant also applied for the release of his international passport, which was not opposed to by the anti-graft agency.
During the proceeding, the defendant’s counsel, Oyewole, SAN argued that the prosecution upon closing its case, has not been able to provide any proof that the properties seized are a subject of any criminal investigation and was not in court as exhibits.
His lawyer further added that no application has been brought to the court seeking for an interim forfeiture of the properties and without such order, the properties cannot be detained for so long.
In his further submission, Oyewole stated that the facts stated in the counter affidavit are mere assertions and not substantive. He therefore urged the court to grant the defendant’s prayers.
He said that although the commission had released the AirPod and sunglass when the application was filed, the other properties sought for were still with EFCC.
But EFCC Counsel, S.I Suleiman submitted to the court that the properties are being investigated for a different case.
Suleiman argued that there is an exception in the constitution that allows for temporary possession of properties for the sole purpose of investigation.
He then urged the court to dismiss the prayer of the defendant for lack of merit.
The trial judge, Justice Liman in a bench ruling held that although the prosecution has the right to seize a 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 stressed that the retention of the property without compliance to due process violates the requirements of Section 29 of the Act.”
“Failure to release the property is illegal. As at today, no charge has been filed as regards the items. It is too long to withhold the applicant properties.”
The judge therefore ordered the release and return to the defendant, properties taken from him.
Meanwhile the defendant applied for the release of his international passport, which was not opposed to by the prosecution.