UPDATE: Billionaire arrested for money laundering in UK convicted for fraud in Nigeria

WALTER WAGBATSOMA 1

A Nigerian billionaire, Walter Wagbatsoma, has been convicted of fraud by a Lagos court.

Adaoha Ugo-Nnadi, convicted alongside Mr. Wagbatsoma for fuel subsidy fraud, fainted in the dock Friday as the judge began to read the sentence for her conviction forcing the proceedings to be rescheduled to Monday.

Mrs. Ugo-Nnadi, Mr. Wagbatsoma, and their company, Ontario Oil and Gas, were convicted on an eight-count amended charge of fuel subsidy fraud before the Ikeja Division of the Lagos High Court.

The minimum sentence for the crime is seven years while the maximum is 20 years.

Mr. Wagbatsoma, the first convict, is currently under house arrest in the United Kingdom where he is accused of money laundering.

Justice Lateefat Okunnu, however, discharged and acquitted the third defendant, Babafemi Fakuade, an employee of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency.

“The case of the prosecution against the first, second, and fourth defendants has been proved beyond reasonable doubt and they are convicted on each of the eight counts,” the judge said.

As soon as Mrs. Okunnu returned after a 30-minute recess to read her sentencing, Mrs. Ugo-Nnadi, who was seated in the dock, collapsed in a heap leaving her relatives scrambling for water to resuscitate her.

The judge directed that a medical doctor be summoned and announced she would read her final judgment on Monday.

The convict, crying and retching on the floor inside the dock, was carried into her waiting Sports Utility Vehicle, and rushed to a hospital.

It was a dramatic end to a day that began with the suspects strolling around the courtroom in an ebullient mood before the judge’s arrival around 9.20 a.m. Mrs. Ugo-Nnadi, decked in an immaculate blue attire, slapped the arm of a friend telling her to “cheer up,” and a few moments later laughed at a seemingly hilarious joke shared by her lawyer.

The defendants were first arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in 2012 for fraud, forgery, and conspiracy amounting to N1.9 billion in the fuel subsidy scheme.

They were later re-arraigned in 2013 after the trial judge was elevated to the Court of Appeal, and then again in 2016 on an eight-count amended charge.

They had pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

SUBSIDY FRAUD

The judge said the prosecution had accused Mr. Wagbatsoma, Mrs. Ugo-Nnadi, and Ontario Oil and Gas of collecting N942 million as subsidy payment instead of N602 million.

Mr. Wagbatsoma is the chairman of the company while Mrs. Ugo-Nnadi is the managing director.

The judge also said the prosecution gave evidence that the convicts discharged “a much lesser quantity” of petrol in their transaction with the government and presented a forged shore tank certificate.

“The fourth defendant defrauded the federal government of N340 million,” she said.

A prosecution witness gave evidence that, in the first transaction, Ontario Oil paid N37 million for 12 million litres of fuel in a throughput agreement with Integrated oil and Gas, but later collected subsidy for 19 million litres.

In the second transaction, the company collected subsidy for 19 million litres while they paid a throughput agreement with Obat Oil worth N28 million for 10 million litres of fuel.

“Both the first and second defendants signed the cheque for the throughput agreement,” the judge quoted the witness as saying.

Another prosecution witness, Obinna Ukonu, a store officer at Integrated Oil and Gas, gave evidence that Ontario brought in 12 million litres of fuel via a mother vessel, MT Pacific, and then a daughter vessel, MT Union Brave. The same quantity was “trucked out” by the company.

“I find that there is credible, concrete evidence that the quantity of petrol discharged was 12 million litres,” said the judge.

“Evidence by the prosecution is that the product was discharged into one tank which cannot contain more than 16.5 million litres because of an inbuilt floating roof that takes about two million litres.”

An exhibit that the judge described as “very damaging” to the defendants’ case was Exhibit D1, a calibrated report which showed that the tank in question cannot contain more than 18 million litres of fuel.

CONVICTED IN ABSENTIA

In 2012, when the convicts were first arraigned, Mr. Wagbatsoma was absent.

Rotimi Jacobs, the EFCC counsel, told the then judge, Habeeb Abiru, that he had fled to the U.S. to avoid trial.

When he eventually returned to face trial, the judge imposed a N450 million bail on him.

In July last year, despite the court holding his international passport and other travel documents, Mr. Wagbatsoma was arrested in Germany and extradited to the UK to face money laundering charges.

He is currently under house arrest in the UK.

On Friday, the judge said Mr. Wagbatsoma during his testimony tried to distance himself from the running of Ontario Oil and Gas.

“The first defendant while testifying laboured to convince the court that he was not involved in the day to day running of the fourth defendant, but he signs the cheques,” Mrs. Okunnu said.

“He is of sound, literate mind. Over and over again, he informed the court he sits on the board of 27 companies. He knew what he was doing when he signed those cheques, and there is evidence that he used the money from the subsidy payment.”

For Mrs. Ugo-Nnadi, the judge described her as the “operating mind and the alter ego” of the company.

“She had full knowledge of the entire exercise.”

The judge also said she had no doubt that the company forged shore tank certificate, used for the subsidy payment.

“I find the first, second, and fourth defendants guilty of forgery. All three of them conspired as there was a meeting of minds,” she said.

The case against Mr. Fakuade, who was discharged and acquitted, was that he signed and embossed the PPPRA stamp on a forged document, the judge said.

“There is nothing that shows that he was aware of the real document that showed the actual amount of fuel discharged. It was simply gross negligence on his part.”

BEG FOR MERCY

Before she began reading the sentencing for the crimes, the defence lawyers said they would make a “plea allocotus” – to beg the judge to temper justice with mercy.

The lawyer said Mrs. Ugo-Nnadi had been having “very serious health challenges” but has managed to be attending all the trial proceedings.

“It is our humble plea that a custodial sentence will do serious damage to her health as a result of the crowding in the prison and three or four doctors to hundreds of inmates,” the lawyer said.

He said his client is a mother of “very young children” and a prison stay would deprive her children of her “mother and father” roles.

He also said the embarrassment and loss of businesses the second defendant had suffered is enough restitution for her crime.

“The second defendant throughout the trial has suffered psychologically. She has been the butt of publications online, written press, television. She has suffered so much.”

But Mr. Jacobs said anything short of sending the convict to prison would make a mockery of the fight against corruption.

“It will send a wrong signal that custodial sentence is the preserve of the poor and the rich cannot go to jail,” said Mr. Jacobs, a senior advocate of Nigeria.

“The purpose of our criminal law is to ensure that those who contravene the law do not escape the consequences of the law.”


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  • Peter_Edo

    Interesting times…

  • ayo

    The deyamification has started indeed……..
    All nigerian crooks accused of crimes against the society always fall sick…..
    Bang them all up in jail your lordship ….who cares about these criminals who have destroyed our society……
    ALL WE WANT IS FAIR JUSTICE AND WHEN FOUND GUILTY ….SEND OUR ELITE CRIMINALS TO JAIL……
    Enough is enough….

  • Dazmillion

    Adaoha Ugo-Nnadi will finally get the chance to lose weight in prison. But when will Dr Fortunato, the mastermind of this never seen before in the history of Nigeria fuel subsidy scam, be brought before the courts to face justice?

    • Dualpolemedia

      Hmmmm! Can we leave that one to God? I strongly believe that all those who caused sufferings in this land of plenty will not depart in peace.

    • Sanssouci

      LWKMD!!

  • Sword of Damocles

    Please no drama of fainting. Nigerians are dying for all you people’s betrayal. Stiff Hard sentence for you, and all your ilk that cant see beyond your greed and short term benefit. I do not want to hear about any sensational corruption cases anymore, unless it is to Hand down CONVICTIONS & STIFF sentences for these traitors(like the above story). Fainting?, LOL, well millions are not fainting…. they are DYING and STARVING because of ur ilk. Worthless vermins the lot , May our Creator have mercy on your soul, definitely not the millions of your brothers & sister who your ILK Fcuked OVER, BARAWOS, THEM, THEIR ANCESTORS & GENERATIONS TO COME

  • joelaw

    Some defense lawyers vomit nonsense in court, but i guess they have to say something for the reason of justifying their pay. Can you imagine the effrontery of the lawyer to talking about how she would be missing her children if sentenced. Does he know how many innocent children of the poor died as a result of not having money to take care of simple malaria. These folks are heartless, Jonathan and Okonjo messed up Nigeria big time.

  • Rommel

    They can make any plea they want,when they were plotting this deal,did they remember that such a day would come? plea allocotus my foot

  • Amir

    Ada Ugo fainted because she paid for a favourable judgment discharging and acquitting her but her lawyers scared her and did not deliver the amount bargained. Meanwhile it was court operators that may have collected and shared the bribe. Justice for the masses for once.
    By the way we are still monitoring the judge if she wants to water sentencing down ‘over the weekend’.

  • Dualpolemedia

    All this lawyers should look for something else as defence. Everytime our big thief are been charged to court was when they fall sick. We don’t care if they are sick or not, we are sick tired of them too. All we care is, if they sick they should die.

  • Curious

    Where is that thief called Farouk Liwan (A Senator from
    Northern Nigeria) who despite being a Mecca and Hajj going Muslim collected and
    stuffed $290,000 UD Dollars as bribe and stuffed it in his useless head beneath
    his cap. Where is he? And where is the other thief (i.e., the giver of the
    bribe) Mr Otedola? Where are they? These happened under President Jonathan, so
    why is Buhari blind to these? Is it because Otedola sponsored part APC presidential
    campaigns? Oh Nigeria, the more you look, the less you see.

    • Mutiu Alabi

      ask ur ‘hero’ GEJ… it happens under his nose in 2012… for good 3years after that he did nothing… now u r crying like a f**l

  • Pete

    Tell us about the ECONOMY and what our Dumbie de clueless is doing about it. Nigerians are hungry and jobless. What does a president do? No state of the nation address, no state of the economy address, nothing. He only addresses press conferences when he receives a Chibok girl and her baby at the Villla. Is this what he should be doing? PT should be more responsible in their contribution to national development.

    • kinsly

      Mumu Internet troll. Keep changing names, but you still remain a mumu.

    • Powerlessconscious

      By spreading hatred like biafraud.

  • Sanssouci

    Wow! Friday the 13th has really lived up to its name for Wagbatsoma and Adaoha Ugo-Nnadi…what a way to enter weekend…. First big man convicted… Let’s wait to see the sentence though, I would hate to hear something like suspended sentence because it has dragged since 2012…Hope dey

  • emmanuel

    Wayo Judge, what is the sentence for gross negligence? Bode George went to Prison for gross negligence.
    Otokoto Judge, ne who give you bribe? NJC and DSS please raid the home of this Judge and print account statement.
    The spirit of Ibori and Uduaghan has caught up with Walter, one of their boys!

  • Bimbo.

    Nice one from Rotimi Jacobs. Why should the poor go to prison for stealing 2 tubers of yam valued at less than N1,000 only and the rich that steals Hundreds of Millions be allowed to go home free?

  • FirecloudOFGOD

    Business ideas spring up in the house of the wise and creative. One could Set up an Medical agency with a standby medical team to resuscitate these corrupt elements who collapse like a pile of rubbish heap in the heat of the hot African sun, but incredibly insensitive to the plight of poor Nigerians they reap off on a daily basis! Anyone care to suggest a name for the team?

    • Dan maikoko

      CORRUPSUTATIONS INC.! Given the pressure on the judiciary as regards bribe taking and fraudulent acquittals this business will flourish in the years to come.
      I do believe that the woman collapsed because someone has assured her that her bribe has got to the judge. Another business that will flourish, firecloud could be named JUDGE PADDING, legal consultants and advisers!

      • FirecloudOFGOD

        You have a very fertile mind!
        I will borrow a leaf or two from you perhps a combined business should be called CORRUPSUTATIONS & JUDGE PADDING Nigeria Limited.

  • Hamza

    Mumu women! They love the crime but they don’t wanna do the time. They are strong in their crooked ways but not strong enough to withstand and accept the consequences of their actions. Madam Judge abeg no mercy o! This emotional breakdown sef! Even if die she go do, no mercy abeg. Small time criminals get very harsh sentences but the big ones always just get a slap on the wrist. I swear if I be judge, I will be more merciless towards these financial criminals. You will hear 126 yrs sentences. Yeye and Mumu judges (some, but not all).

  • wazobia monk !!!!!!

    “It is our humble plea that a custodial sentence will do serious damage to her health as a result of the crowding in the prison and three or four doctors to hundreds of inmates,” the lawyer said.”

    yeah,the executive criminal needs to be pampered,even in he*ll,even Lucifer would accommodate her irrespective of the untold damage her crimes brought on other nigerians …………………..

    “He said his client is a mother of “very young children” and a prison stay would deprive her children of her “mother and father” roles.”

    serpentine lawyer,her theft made some children orphans …………………….

    “He also said the embarrassment and loss of businesses the second defendant had suffered is enough restitution for her crime.”

    unfortunately,its not your prerogative to determine that …………………….hope the judge slams her with at least 10 year jail term ……………… no negotiations over the weekend,please ……………..