Fraud charges: Court further adjourns until June 3 to sentence ex-NIMASA DG
Justice Mojisola Olatoregum of a Federal High Court in Lagos, on Tuesday, further adjourned until June 3, to sentence a former acting Director General of NIMASA, Calistus Obi, convicted of fraud charges.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), charged Obi with eight counts of fraud.
He was charged along with one Alu Dismas, who was aide to a former DG of NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi.
Also charged are two companies, Grand Pact Ltd and Global Seal Investment Ltd.
On May 23, the court had convicted the defendants, after it found them guilty of allegations contained in the charge.
Delivering her judgement, which lasted for about two and half hours, Justice Olatoregun had first highlighted chronological sequence of proceedings and arguments during the trial.
The court had accordingly, found the first defendant guilty of counts five, six, seven and eight of the charge, and also found the second defendant guilty of counts two and four of the charge
The court had then adjourned the case for counsel to address the court on sentencing.
On Tuesday, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo appeared for the EFCC while Messrs Mobolaji Kuti and Collins Ogbonna appeared for the first to fourth defendants.
Addressing the court, the prosecutor urged that the defendants be punished according to the provisions of the law, by imposing the requisite sentence.
Oyedepo contended that the maximum sentence be imposed by the court, especially as the defendants had allowed the court to go through the rigours of full trial, without bothering to take advantage of the provisions of section 270 of the ACJA.
He argued that for wasting the time of the court which ultimately found them guilty of the offence, the defendants are thus, not qualified to enjoy the discretion of the court in not imposing maximum sentence.
Citing the provisions of section 15(3) of the Money Laundering Act, prosecution argued that the law has limited the courts discretion, by providing that the court can sentence a defendant to 14 years imprisonment, but not below seven years.
“This is a time we must begin to make statements that send signal to public servants and those entrusted with public funds, not to betray the trust imposed on them as the court had found in this case. The first and second defendant converted the total sum of N111 million to their personal use, while the first, third, and fourth defendants converted the sum of N114 million to their personal use”.
“The court has the power to order them to refund the money, and compensate the Agency for the funds already utilised. We also urge the court to order a forfeiture to the Federal Government, of the sum of N30 million recovered by the EFCC from the first defendant,” he said
Prosecution also urged the court to order forfeiture to the Federal Government, of a Hotel in Asaba called La Diva Hotel and Events Centre, which is owned by the first defendant.
“Doing this will also send a warning signal to intending members of the public, who want to “dip their hands into public funds,” he said.
For the third and fourth defendants, Oyedepo cited the provisions of sections 15(4) of the ACJA, which imposes a fine of 100 per cent on a body corporate found guilty of such allegations.
He therefore, urged the court to make an order, imposing such fines on the companies, as they aided the defendants in committing the offence.
In his plea for mercy on behalf of the first convict, his counsel (Kuti) urged the court to temper justice with mercy on the convict as he was a first time offender, with no past criminal records.
Citing the provisions of section 416 (d) of the ACJA, he argued that the law provides that a court shall not impose the maximum sentence on a first time offender.
Counsel informed the court that the convict had been in dedicated service to the public for long, and is a good christian who also runs a charitable project.
He told the court that the convict had a family who depended solely on him, and urged the court to be lenient.
Besides, Kuti also urged the court that in sentencing the convict. the court should order his remand in the Kirikiri prisons instead of Ikoyi prisons.
On his part. second defence counsel, (Ogbonna) urged the court to give justice a “human face”
He sued for a non custodian sentence on behalf of the second convict, who he described as a mere “conduit pipe” used to deliver money to his superiors.
According to him, the second convict did not benefit from the said funds, but had only acted on instructions, adding that he had an aged father and a little baby who just turned one year.
He begged for leniency and a non custodian sentence for Dismiss.
After listening to respective submissions of counsel, Justice Olatoregun deferred sentence until June 3, and ordered the convicts to be remanded in Ikoyi prison, pending sentence.
EFCC had closed the case for the prosecution on Jan. 31, 2017, while the defence filed a no-case submission.
The court, had however, dismissed the no-case submission on Feb. 21, 2017, and ordered the defence to open its case.
According to the charge, the defendants committed the offences on Aug. 5 2014.
Prosecution said that they conspired to convert the money from NIMASA, with knowledge that same were proceeds of stealing.
The offence, the EFCC said, contravened the provisions of sections 15 and 18(a) of the Money Laundering Prohibitions (Amendment) Act, 2012. (NAN)