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COURT DECLARES SEIZURE OF VASWANIS ASSETS ILLEGAL

By NBF News

The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Dan Abutu, yesterday declared the seizure of the assets of Vaswani brothers and the subsequent detention of some expatriate staff of Popular Foods Limited by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as illegal.

The court ruled that the anti-graft agency should also pay N5 million to the plaintiffs for the illegal act. The plaintiffs included Tajudeen Olalere, Vinay Tuteja, Bhaskar Sinha, Pius Kizhakkudan, Chandrasekaran Ramamoorthy, Stallion Nigeria Limited, Premium Seafoods Limited and Hyundai Motors Nigeria Limited.

Others are Stallion Motors Limited, The Honda Place Limited, Stallion Plastic Industries Limited, Stallion Textile Industries Limited, Sunil Vaswani, Haresh Vaswani and Mahesh Vaswani.

They had instituted the suit against the Federal Government to challenge the seizure of their assets and the detention of their employees by the EFCC over alleged evasion of N3 billion customs duty.

The EFCC had also in the wake of the customs duty evasion debacle, placed a 'No Debit Note' (freezing of accounts) on the accounts of the plaintiffs at Zenith Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) and Skye Bank.

Justice Abutu pronounced the action of the EFCC as unlawful, adding that it was done without due process.

Specifically, the court vacated the 'No Debit Note' placed on the accounts, and also restrained the EFCC from freezing the accounts of the Vaswani brothers without following due process.

The court also restrained the EFCC from seizing the assets and arresting the plaintiffs without following due process of law. The court also rejected the request by the plaintiffs praying it to declare a press conference addressed by the EFCC Chairman, Farida Waziri on March 20, last year as a gross infraction of their fundamental rights of presumption of innocence.

According to Justice Abutu, those prayers were not within the confines of the fundamental enforcement procedure rules.