Rowaye Jubril quietly walked out of the dock after the judge pronounced a 10 years jail term on him for fuel subsidy fraud. He whispered to one of his staff, “We will appeal it.”
On Thursday, Justice Lateefa Okunnu of an Ikeja Division of the Lagos High Court, said she considered Mr. Jubril’s body language during the trial before pronouncing her sentence.
“I have taken into consideration that the defendant (Mr. Jubril) is a first time offender, I have also noted his demeanour,” said Mrs. Okunnu as she read her two hour-long judgment.
“I find the first and second defendants guilty on each count and are hereby convicted on each of the (13) counts.”
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission arraigned Mr. Jubril and his company, Brila Energy, in November 2012 for allegedly perpetrating a N963.7 million subsidy fraud.
The accused had pleaded not guilty.
The prosecution presented 20 witnesses before the judge while 43 documents were tendered as evidence during the trial.
The defence did not call any witness.
In delivering her judgment on Thursday, Mrs. Okunnu said she relied, among others, on a 79-page document submitted to the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency by Mr. Jubril while acting for Brila Energy Ltd.
According to the defendants, a ship, MT Overseas Limar, delivered over 13,000 metric tons of petrol to a daughter vessel, MT Delphina, at Cotonou, offshore Benin Republic, and later to a smaller shuttle vessel which deposited the product to Obat Oil’s tank farm in Lagos.
The purported transaction occurred in January 2011.
The judge agreed with the prosecution’s case that all the documents used for the transaction were forged by the defendants.
Also, the location of MT Overseas Limar, the mother vessel, on the day of the purported transaction was in Canada, Central America, from where it departed to Venezuela, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence report.
The EFCC also proved that two documents the defendants claimed originated from a Brazilian company which supplied the refined crude – certificate of quantity and gasoline analysis – were forged.
The Brazilian firm confirmed to the agency that the said documents had been used for a different transaction two years earlier.
“The law is for he that asserts to prove. The prosecution must prove its case to a standard that all reasonable doubt is eliminated,” the judge noted.
“It is not for the defendant to prove his innocence; it is rather for the prosecution to prove his guilt.”
The judge noted, from the documents presented by the defendants, that the ship’s manifest stated that the vessel left Brazil on 22nd November, 2010, while another document showed that the gasoline analysis began on the same day and didn’t end until the next day.
“It beats the imagination how this could happen,” Mrs. Okunnu said.
“This circumstance further erodes the integrity of the defendants,” she added.
The judge lauded the testimony of one of the prosecution’s witnesses, Kalu Peters, a cargo inspector at General Marine and Oil Ltd, for being “direct and first hand.”
“His credibility as a witness of truth was not tainted through the test of cross examination.”
As a result, the judge relied fully on Mr. Peters’ evidence that it was another vessel, MT Gabro, and not MT Overseas Limar, that discharged 13,200 metric tons to MT Delphina in January 2011.
“MT Overseas Limar was never mentioned at all,” the judge said.
“The defendant in my opinion always knew that MT Overseas Limar had no part to play in the exercise.
“The first that heard of MT Overseas Limar was during the subsidy claim.
“It is my finding that the defendants were parties to a crime, even though the physical crime of forgery was not committed themselves. They intended to deceive and did deceive because they received payments.”
The judge further noted that the firm, Ports Cargo Experts Ltd, which claimed to have supervised the trans-shipment of the products by the defendants made a false claim. She said the company’s Certificate of Incorporation showed that Mr. Jubril sits on its Board.
“The defendant by presenting the firm’s claims knowing that the contents were false, there was a proven intention to defraud,” Mrs. Okunnu said.
The judge said the first defendant, as the managing director and chief executive officer of the second defendan,t was its “alter ego” and “directing mind.”
“Being the alter ego, he’s just as culpable as the second defendant. One of them cannot excuse himself or itself of criminal liability.”
Before the judge pronounced her sentence, the defence counsel pleaded that she temper justice with mercy because the convicts were first offenders and that Mr. Jubril had consistently shown remorse.
The counsel also prayed the judge to be lenient because the first convict “is diabetic and hypertensive.”
But Seidu Atteh, counsel to the EFCC, said there was no record of the convict’s health condition.
The judge convicted Mr. Jubril on Count One of fraud and sentenced him to ten years imprisonment.
She also convicted him on counts 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 for forgery and sentenced him to eight years on each counts.
For counts 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13 on altering of documents, the judge convicted the defendant and sentenced him to eight years on each of the counts.
The sentences are to run concurrently, according to the judge, meaning the defendant will spend a maximum 10 years in prison.
For the second defendant, Brila Energy Ltd, Mrs. Okunnu made an order of restitution for the refund of N963,796,199.88k obtained by false pretences to the Nigerian government.