The Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday sentenced a former chairperson of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina, to eight years’ imprisonment for money laundering offences involving N2billion in pension fund.
The judge, Okon Abang, jailed Mr Maina after convicting him and his company, Common Input Property and Investment Ltd, on all the 12 counts filed against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
According to News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the judge sentenced Mr Maina to various jail terms ranging from three to eight years, which are to run concurrently.
He jailed the convict three years for count 1, five years for count 2, eight years for count 3, eight years for count 4, two years for count 5, five years for count 6, and eight years in count seven.
He also sentenced him to three years in jail for count 8, five years for count 9, eight years for count 10, three years for count 11 and three years for count 12.
He ordered that the terms of imprisonment shall run concurrently beginning from October 25, 2019, the date he was arraigned.
It implies that Mr Maina will spend the longest sentence which is eight years in jail.
As for the Common Input Property and Investment Ltd’s punishment, the judge ordered that it should be wound up and its assets forfeited to the federal government.
He held that Mr Maina stole over N2 billion belonging to pensioners, “most of whom have died without reaping the fruits of their labour”.
“In my view, it is pensioners’ funds the 1st defendant (Maina) stole, and some of the pensioners died out of frustration,” Mr Abang said.
Analysis of evidence
In his analysis of the evidence led in the case, Mr Abang held that the prosecution established its case against Mr Maina.
According to the judge, the prosecution established that Mr Maina purchased property in Abuja with $1.4million cash without passing through a financial institution. The amount, the judge said, was far above the cash transaction threshold of N5million.
He also ruled that the prosecution proved that Mr Maina concealed his true identity as signatory to the accounts he opened in the United Bank of Africa (UBA) and Fidelity Bank by using the identity of his family members without their knowledge.
Mr Abang condemned the roles of the banks in the opening of the fraudulent accounts.
The sums of N300million, N500million and N1.5billion which, according to the judge, were stolen by Mr Maina from pensioners, were deposited in the accounts.
He said Mr Maina could not explain the source of the money, adding that the convict, as civil servant, could not have legitimately earned the sums of money from his salary and emoluments.
According to the judge, an EFCC witness, who testified during the trial, pointed out that Mr Maina, whose salary as a civil servant was N256, 000, could not have legitimately had such money running into billions in his accounts even if he saved all his salaries for 35 years.
He said “the money formed part of unlawful activities to which the 1st defendant reasonably ought to have known.”
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had arraigned Mr Maina before Mr Abang, on October 25, 2019, and firm, Common Input Property and Investment Ltd, on 12 counts of money laundering.
He had pleaded “not guilty” to the charges.
Mr Maina had jumped bail twice in the course of the trial. He was recently arrested in Niamey, Niger Republic, where he had fled.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how a senator, Ali Ndume, was briefly jailed after he failed to provide Mr Maina, whom he had stood surety for. Mr Ndume spent five days at the Kuje correctional centre before he was granted bail.
In the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/256/2019, EFCC alleged that Mr Maina used fictitious names to open and operate various bank accounts, as well as recruited his relatives that were bankers to operate fake bank accounts through which illicit funds were channelled.
Mr Maina spent most of the trial period in jail as he took him a long period to meet the bail conditions. The bail was revoked after he fled from trial and was sent back to jail till the end of the trial after he was re-arrested in Niger.
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