The Federal High Court of Nigeria has ruled that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) cannot declare any person as ‘wanted’ without first obtaining a Court order or charging them with an offence. The Court ruled that by declaring Benedict Peters ‘wanted’ the EFCC had acted illegally and unconstitutionally, and violated Mr Peters’ right to personal liberty and the right not to be subject to inhuman and degrading treatment.
Benedict Peters, the founder and CEO of the Aiteo Group, said: “This ruling is an important next step in the legal process to clear my name. I have not committed nor have I been charged with any crime. I am confident that I and the Aiteo Group will be exonerated of any and all wrongdoing by the Courts in the coming weeks and months.
“Aiteo is one of the leading indigenous energy companies in Africa and employs more than 300 Nigerians. I look forward to once again focussing all my efforts on growing our business and supporting sports development in Nigeria and across Africa, such as the CAF Awards, the Nigerian national football team and the Federation Cup.”
On 22nd February 2018, the Aiteo Group secured an interlocutory injunction from the Federal High Court of Nigeria restraining the EFCC and the Attorney General of the Federation from interfering or obstructing its business operations.
The interlocutory injunction restrains the EFCC and the Attorney General from embargoing or freezing Aiteo’s accounts or obstructing its activities in any way whatsoever. It also prevents the EFCC and the Attorney General from enforcing a restraint order awarded by the UK Crown Court on 19th October 2017.
Aiteo Group is an integrated, global-focused Nigerian energy conglomerate founded in February 2008 by Benedict Peters. The company has significant business interests in oil and gas exploration and production; bulk petroleum storage; refining of petroleum products; trading, marketing and supply as well as power generation and distribution. Its subsidiaries are Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company Limited (AEEPCo) and Aiteo Power. Aiteo Group acquired OML 29 from Royal Dutch Shell and emerged as Nigeria’s leading Oil and Gas Company after successfully tripling production levels.
Benedict Peters is a businessman, entrepreneur and the Founder and CEO of Aiteo Group (AiteoGroup.com) – the largest indigenous energy company in Nigeria. His track record of industry excellence spans over 20 years in the commodity and energy trading industry as well as the banking sector. Peters’ involvement in the Nigerian oil and gas industry commenced in the 1990s, working for industry leaders like Ocean and Oil Limited (later OandO) and MRS Oil and Gas where he served as the pioneer Managing Director.
Driven by unique strategic vision and a passion for business and leadership development, he founded Aiteo Group in 2000 and has built it into a business that not only employs thousands of workers but is also strengthening Nigeria’s capacity to manage its natural resources. He has been recognised for his ground-breaking contribution to strengthening Nigeria’s control over its strategic assets and in 2014, Nigeria’s Leadership Newspaper named Benedict Peters Man of the Year.
Nigerian High Court Grants Aiteo’s Benedict Peters Global Judgment in Rem – Declares Earnings as Legitimate
There was no evidence to support the suggestion that any aspect of his business showed any criminal conduct and as such, the allegations were baseless
The High Court sitting in the Federal Capital Territory, Nigeria has declared that earnings and assets accruing to Oil magnate and Aiteo Energy (AiteoGroup.com) boss, Benedict Peters were acquired legally through legitimate sources. This follows a similar ruling squashing multiple money laundering charges and bribery of election officials indictment against Mr. Peters.
Justice Valentine Ashi made the findings on Thursday, 7th of December, 2017 whilst pronouncing judgment in proceedings tried before him challenging the provenance and legality of the ownership of assets and properties belonging to the Aiteo boss. There was no evidence to support the suggestion that any aspect of his business showed any criminal conduct and as such, the allegations were baseless.
By proceedings in suit number FCT/HC/CV/ 0091/ 17, the Plaintiff, Moses Uyah alleged that Peters’ acquisition of a number of assets was fraudulent because he was unable to account for income or earnings from which such purchases could have been lawfully funded. In consequence, he asked the court not only to find that Peters’ acquisitions of the properties were illegitimate; that he was also living above his means and that the funds utilized for the purchases were the proceeds of corrupt as well as illegitimate dealings. Given the criminal acquisitions, he asked the court to forfeit the assets to the Federal Government.
Peters, in response, willingly produced to the court evidence to demonstrate his sound business practices over the past 25 years in the oil and gas industry. As well he provided evidence from financial institutions for funding raised over several years which allowed him to invest and conduct business that resulted to the considerable success of Aiteo Group.
In the absence of any specific offence and proof of commission of crime, the defendant legitimately and lawfully acquired the assets and properties, the subject matter of this suit, Justice Ashi found that on said evidence produced to the court, Peters had established that he had a credible and verifiable means of livelihood; had substantial personal wealth to fund, did legitimately fund the acquisition of the properties identified in the proceedings and therefore could not be accused of living above his means. He established, in the proceedings, that there was no evidence to support the suggestion that any aspect of his business showed any criminal conduct and as such, the plaintiff’s allegations were baseless.
In dismissing the case, Justice Ashi ruled that the “said assets and properties having been legitimately acquired by the defendant cannot be forfeited to the Government under any circumstances.”
The judge further ruled “restraining any person, security agency or authority from disturbing the defendant’s quiet enjoyment of his assets and properties having been found to be legitimately acquired.”
In upholding Peters evidence and contention, the learned judge found that there was no merit in the allegations of criminal conduct relied upon by Uyah and the case as a whole. In doing so, the judge observed “…that in the absence of any specific offence and proof of commission of crime, the defendant legitimately and lawfully acquired the assets and properties, the subject matter of this suit…”
The assets listed include 58 Harley House, Marylebone Road, London worth 2,800,000 million pounds, apartment 4, 5, Arlington Street, London worth 11,800,000 million pounds, Flat 5, 83-86, Prince Albert Road, London worth 3,750,000 million pounds and also other assets of Aiteo Energy Resources worth over $4.023billion. Also listed by and affected by the judgment are monies in Account No 105277 in FBN Bank (UK) in the name of Mr. B and Mrs. N. Peters, monies in Account No 107127 in FBN Bank (UK) of Walworth Properties Ltd, the sum of 36,674.7 pounds held on behalf of defendant in the client Account of Clyde and Co. LLP , London, the sum of 40,620 pounds held in the correspondent Bank Account at Ghana International Bank, London and shares in Walworth Properties Limited, Rosewood Investments and Colinwood Limited.