A judge of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court, Rilwan Aikawa, has ordered a Congo-based businessman to forfeit $700,000 out of the $1.9 million he allegedly laundered to the Federal Government.
Paulinus Ani, who initially claimed to be a Congolese, entered into a plea bargain arrangement with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) after the anti-graft agency charged him with money laundering.
The judge had on October 25, ordered Mr. Ani’s arrest for refusing to appear in court after the EFCC filed a two count-charge marked, FHC/L/161c/2014, against the businessman over his failure to declare the sum of $1, 909,140, which he allegedly laundered from the Republic of Congo to the men of the Nigerian Customs Service.
However, at the resumed hearing of the matter on Wednesday, the accused person owned up to the alleged offence after entering into a plea bargain agreement with the EFCC.
Reviewing the fact of the case after Mr. Ani’s guilty plea, EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, said the defendant was handed over to the commission following his arrest on February 23, 2014, with $1, 909,140 at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport by men of the Nigeria Customs Service.
He said the defendant disclosed in his statement that the money was given to him by one Ikechukwu Frank for delivery to one Jude Okoye.
The lawyer added that the businessman was arrested by men of the NCS while attempting to deliver the money without going through any financial institution.
Mr. Oyedepo also displayed a letter from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) showing that the money is in its custody. He also revealed that the Commission had signed a plea bargain agreement dated December 4, 2017, with the accused person.
He subsequently urged the court to convict the defendant in view of his plea and overwhelming evidence against him.
Sentencing the accused person, the judge ordered that the businessman should forfeit $700, 000 to the Federal Government out of the seized money.
A breakdown of the money to be forfeited by the defendant showed that he was given an option of fine of $50, 000 while he is also to forfeit $650, 000 to the Federal Government.
According to the judge, the money which is to be paid from the recovered $1, 909,140, that was kept in the safe custody of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is to be credited to the consolidated fund of the federation.
“The remaining sum of $1, 209, 140 should be released to the defendant through a designated financial institution in strict compliance with the provisions of Section 1 (a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011, as amended.
“The defendant shall within seven days after the payment of the fine imposed by the court, enter into a bond with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) never to be involved in economic and financial crimes within and outside the shores of Nigeria”, Justice Aikawa held.
The two count charge against the accused person reads: “That you, Ani Paulinus Onyeka, on or before February 10, 2014, at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this court, while transporting in cash the sum of $1, 909,140, from Republic of Congo to Nigeria, failed to declare the said sum of $1.909,140, to Nigerian Customs Services (NCS), as required under Section 12 of the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act Cap. F34, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, and Section 2(5) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011, and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 2(5) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011, as amended in 2012.
“That you, Ani Paulinus Onyeka, on or before February 10, 2014, at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, transported the cash sum of $1, 909,140, from Republic of Congo to Nigeria, with intent to carry out specified unlawful activity to wit: avoiding lawful transaction under the law through financial institution in respect of the sum of N1, 909,140 and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 4(5) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other related Offences Act, 2006.”