A Lagos Division of the Federal High Court Thursday sentenced a businessman, Jones Biyere, to 15 years in prison for forging foreign cheques.
Mohammed Idris, the judge, found the convict guilty on each of the 13 counts brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and subsequently sentenced him to a total of 140 years.
The convict was sentenced to 10 years in prison each on counts one to 11 and 15 years each on counts 12 and 13,.
The jail terms are to run concurrently, the judge said.
“The prosecution has been able to prove its case against the defendant beyond reasonable doubt,” said Mr Idris.
“Prosecution Witness Two confirmed to the court that the exhibit belongs to the defendant, and the defendant admitted same and said it was about to be sent out of the country.
“He failed to give reasons why he wanted to send this exhibit abroad, knowing that they were fake. The evidence of the defendant is incapable to puncture the evidence given by the prosecution.”
The judge noted the plea of the defendant’s counsel that he is a first offender and the breadwinner of his family.
“I shall temper justice with mercy sentencing him, the trial took a long time due to the attitude of the defendant.”
Mr Biyere was first arraigned in 2006 on a 13 count-charge, bordering on conspiracy, forgery, and exporting forged cheques outside Nigeria.
According to the EFCC, the convict alongside one Tony Adeyemi and one Eddy – both still at large – had on or about May 31, 2006, at 15, McCarthy Street, Onikan, Lagos, fraudulently forged and signed 10 Lloyd’s TBS Cheques with numbers 002108; 002104; 000096; 00091; 005263; 005260; 000147; 000144; 000546; and 000550.
They were also said to have attempted to export the cheques through the offices of United Parcel Services (UPS) situated at Somolu and Gbagada.
The offences, according to the EFCC, are contrary to sections 3(2)a 6(2)(b) and 6(1) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act. Cap. 410, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990, as amended by Act. 62 of 1999, and punishable under Sections 3 and 3(b) of the Counterfeit Currency (Special Provisions) Act No. 22 of 1984 Cap. 77, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990.
Mr Biyere had pleaded not guilty to the charges and was admitted to bail.
During his trial, however, the bail was revoked by Mr Idris after the convict failed and refused to attend his trial on several adjourned dates.
The judge also foreclosed the convict’s right to open his defence, noting that he was deliberately prolonging the trial by repeatedly changing counsels who, at different occasions, sought for adjournments to enable them to prepare their defence.
Mr Idris said the actions were a ploy to continually delay and frustrate the case which had already passed through two judges.