Money Laundering: Hushpuppi Pleads Guilty, Risks 20 Years’ Imprisonment

Ramoni Igbalode aka Hushpuppi, was arrested by Dubai Police in June for fraud, among other crimes.
FILE PHOTO: Ramoni Abbas aka Hushpuppi, was arrested by Dubai Police in June for fraud, among other crimes.

 

An alleged international fraudster, Ramon Abbas who is popularly known as Hushpuppi, has pleaded guilty to multi-million dollar fraud charges filed against him by the United States government.

In a plea agreement document, Hushpuppi agreed to plead guilty as charged.

The document was signed by Hushpuppi; his lawyer, Loius Shapiro; acting United States attorney, Tracy Wilkison, amongst others.

This was contained in a statement released on Wednesday by the court titled, ‘Six Indicted in International Scheme to Defraud Qatari School Founder and then Launder over $1 Million in Illicit Proceeds’.

His plea agreement stated further that he will now be pleading guilty to Count Two which is “Conspiracy to Engage in Money Laundering,” an offence that attracts a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment among other punishments including full restitution.

The document partly read, “defendant (Hushpuppi) admits that defendant is, in fact, guilty of the offence to which defendant is agreeing to plead guilty.

Arrested in Dubai, the United Arab Emirate (UAE) in June 2020, and subsequently extradited to the U.S. where most of the victims of his alleged fraudulent activities are based, Mr Abass has spent the last one year in custody maintaining his innocence.

A date is to be fixed for him to change his previous “not guilty” plea to “guilty” and will be followed by a sentencing hearing for the judge to determine how long he will spend in jail.

 

Read the full statement from the US Department of Justice:

Six Indicted in International Scheme to Defraud Qatari School Founder and then Launder over $1 Million in Illicit Proceeds

Nigerian National Known as ‘Hushpuppi’ Admits Money Laundering in School Financing Scam and Additional Cyber and Business Email Compromise Schemes

            LOS ANGELES – A federal grand jury indictment unsealed this week alleges an elaborate scheme to steal more than $1.1 million from a businessperson attempting to finance the construction of a school for children in Qatar – and the subsequent laundering of illicit proceeds through bank accounts around the world.

The three-count indictment returned on April 29 and unsealed Monday charges three U.S.-based defendants who were arrested last week – as well as three defendants believed to be in Africa – with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to engage in money laundering, and aggravated identity theft.

The criminal complaint that initiated the prosecution in February was also unsealed Monday, revealing that Ramon Olorunwa Abbas – also known by his social media handle of “Ray Hushpuppi” – was initially charged in this case. Court documents ordered unsealed today show that Abbas, a 37-year-old Nigerian national, pleaded guilty on April 20. A version of Abbas’ plea agreement filed late Tuesday outlines his role in the school-finance scheme, as well as several other cyber and business email compromise schemes that cumulatively caused more than $24 million in losses.

“The defendants allegedly faked the financing of a Qatari school by playing the roles of bank officials and creating a bogus website in a scheme that also bribed a foreign official to keep the elaborate pretense going after the victim was tipped off,” said Acting United States Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison. “Mr. Abbas, who played a significant role in the scheme, funded his luxurious lifestyle by laundering illicit proceeds generated by con artists who use increasingly sophisticated means. In conjunction with our law enforcement partners, we will identify and prosecute perpetrators of business email compromise scams, which is a massive and growing international crime problem.”

“Mr. Abbas, among the most high-profile money launderers in the world, has admitted to his significant role in perpetrating global BEC fraud, a scheme currently plaguing Americans,” said Kristi K. Johnson, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “His celebrity status and ability to make connections seeped into legitimate organizations and led to several spin-off schemes in the U.S. and abroad. Today’s announcement deals a crucial blow to this international network and hopefully serves as a warning to potential victims targeted with this type of theft.”

According to the indictment, Abbas allegedly conspired with Abdulrahman Imraan Juma, a.k.a. “Abdul,” 28, of Kenya, and Kelly Chibuzo Vincent, 40, of Nigeria, to defraud the Qatari businessperson by claiming to be consultants and bankers who could facilitate a loan to finance construction of the planned school. Juma allegedly posed as a facilitator and consultant for the illusory bank loans, while Abbas played the role of “Malik,” a Wells Fargo banker in New York, according to court documents. Vincent, in turn, allegedly provided support for the false narratives fed to the victim by, among other things, creating bogus documents and arranging for the creation of a fake bank website and phone banking line.

Yusuf Adekinka Anifowoshe, a.k.a. “AJ,” 26, of Brooklyn, New York, allegedly played a role in the fraud, assisting Abbas with a call to the victim posing as “Malik.” Special agents with the FBI arrested Anifowoshe in New York on July 22.

The conspirators allegedly defrauded the victim out of more than $1.1 million.

The proceeds of the fraud allegedly were laundered in several ways. According to the indictment, Abbas was assisted in laundering the proceeds of the fraud by Rukayat Motunraya Fashola, a.k.a. “Morayo,” 28, of Valley Stream, New York, and Bolatito Tawakalitu Agbabiaka, a.k.a. “Bolamide,” 34, of Linden, New Jersey. These two defendants also were arrested on July 22 by FBI agents.

Approximately $230,000 of the stolen funds allegedly were used to purchase a Richard Mille RM11-03 watch, which was hand delivered to Abbas in Dubai and subsequently appeared in Hushpuppi’s social media posts. Other illicit proceeds from the scheme were allegedly converted into cashier’s checks, including $50,000 in checks that were used by Abbas and a co-conspirator to fraudulently acquire a St. Christopher and Nevis citizenship, as well as a passport for Abbas obtained by creating a false marriage certificate and then bribing a government official in St. Kitts.

Court documents outline a dispute among members of the conspiracy, which allegedly prompted Vincent to contact the victim and claim that Abbas and Juma were engaged in fraud. After this contact, Abbas allegedly arranged to have Vincent jailed in Nigeria by Abba Alhaji Kyari, 46, of Nigeria. According to the affidavit, Kyari is a highly decorated deputy commissioner of the Nigeria Police Force who is alleged to have arranged for Vincent to be arrested and jailed at Abbas’ behest, and then sent Abbas photographs of Vincent after his arrest. Kyari also allegedly sent Abbas bank account details for an account into which Abbas could deposit payment for Vincent’s arrest and imprisonment.

Anifowoshe, Fashola and Agbabiaka were arrested in New York and New Jersey on July 22, and they are expected to be arraigned in Los Angeles in August. All three are currently free on bond.

A criminal complaint and an indictment contain allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Both conspiracy counts alleged in the indictment carry a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. Aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory two-year prison term.

The FBI is investigating this matter as part of Operation Top Dog. The FBI thanks the government of the United Arab Emirates and the Dubai Police Department for their substantial assistance in this matter. The FBI also thanks the Kenyan Office of Attorney General, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and Directorate of Criminal Investigations for their substantial assistance.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Khaldoun Shobaki of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided substantial assistance in this matter.

Court Acquits Senator In Money Laundering Case

Nwaoboshi Appeals Judgment Sacking Him As Delta North Senator-Elect
A file photo of Senator Peter Nwaoboshi.

 

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has acquitted and discharged the lawmaker representing Delta North, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, of the allegation of laundering N322 million.

Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke held that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) failed to prove the elements of the offence against the lawmaker.

He also cleared Nwaoboshi’s two firms – Golden Touch Construction Project Ltd and Suiming Electrical Ltd.

The judge held, among other things, that the EFCC’s case collapsed because “bank officials were not called to testify” and prove the money laundering charge.

Nwaoboshi, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was arraigned alongside his companies in 2018 before Justice Mohammed Idris who was later elevated to the Court of Appeal.

This necessitated a re-arraignment before Justice Aneke in October 2018.

The prosecution had alleged that Nwaoboshi and Golden Touch Construction Projects purchased a 12-storey building property, known as Guinea House, on Marine Road in the Apapa area of Lagos for N805 million between May and June 2014.

According to the anti-graft agency, N322 million out of the N805 million was part of proceeds of “an unlawful act of fraud”.

The EFCC alleged that the N322 million was transferred to the property’s vendor on the order of Suiming Electricals which was accused of aiding the accused to commit money laundering on or about May 14, 2014.

The alleged offences contravened the provisions of Sections 15 (2) (d) and 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011, it claimed.

But Senator Nwaoboshi had pleaded not guilty to the charge.

We Have Recovered $153m, 80 Houses From Diezani – EFCC Chairman

EFCC Seeks Diezani’s Extradition, Court Adjourns Arraignment Till May
(File) Former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.

 

The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, says the anti-graft agency has so far recovered $153 million from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke.

Bawa added that 80 houses valued at $80 million were also recovered from the former minister.

“There are several cases surrounding Diezani’s case. I was part of that investigation, and we have done quite a lot.

”In one of the cases we recovered $153 million; we have secured the final forfeiture of over 80 properties in Nigeria valued at about $80 million. We have done quite a bit on that,” said the agency’s boss in the April edition of the commission’s magazine, EFCC Alert.

READ ALSO: Fake EFCC Chairman’s LinkedIn Account Uncovered, Commission Warns Nigerians

He added, “The other cases as it relates to the $115 million INEC bribery are also ongoing across the federation.

“We are looking forward to the time we will, maybe, have her in the country, and, of course, review things and see what will happen going forward. The case has certainly not been abandoned.”


In this interview conducted in February 2020, former acting EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, calls for the extradition of Diezani over alleged $2.5bn theft.


Diezani is facing charges bordering on bribery and money laundering in Nigeria and in London.

The commission had accused Diezani of fleeing the country to the UK in order to escape justice.

In February 2020, the EFCC under the leadership of its former boss, Ibrahim Magu, asked UK authorities to extradite the former minister on the ground that she allegedly stole a sum of $2.5 billion belonging to the Nigerian government.

Stressing that the fund must be accounted for, Magu also claimed that Diezani had a generation of looters supporting her actions which he said was not good for the image and development of the country.

He stated that the EFCC was in touch (at the time) with the international community to facilitate the extradition of the former minister.

Court Fixes February 25 For Ruling On Maina’s Bail Application

File photo of Abdulrasheed Maina at court premises

 

A former chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina has asked a Federal High Court in Abuja to vacate an order made to continue his alleged money laundering trial in absentia.

The Presiding Judge, Justice Okon Abang, had on November 18, 2020 ordered that Maina’s trial would continue in his absence after he jumped bail and refused to attend trial until he was later arrested in Niger Republic and extradited back to Nigeria to continue his trial.

At the resumed trial, Maina’s lawyer moved an application praying the court to set aside both orders made by the court considering the fact that the defendant has been brought back to face trial.

READ ALSO: Abdulrasheed Bawa Promises To Represent Youths As EFCC Boss

The prosecutor, Mohammed Abubakar however objected to the application on the ground that setting aside the trial in absentia order is “tantamount to setting aside all the proceeding conducted by this court in the absence of the first defendant.”

The court also made an order remanding the defendant in prison pending the conclusion of the trial.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is prosecuting Maina for alleged money laundering to the tune of N2 billion.

Maina’s Son Has Fled To U.S.A, EFCC’s Lawyer Tells Court

A file photo of Faisal Maina during his arraignment at the Federal High Court in Abuja.

 

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has alerted a Federal High Court in Abuja that Faisal Maina, son of the former chairman of the defunct Pension Reformed Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina is on the run to the United States Of America (USA).

Faisal, who is standing trial on charges of money laundering, had jumped bail refusing to attend trial since November 24, 2020.

At the resumed trial, the lawyer to the anti-graft agency, Mohammed Abubakar told the trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, that from the information at the disposal of the commission, Faisal Maina sneaked to the USA through the Republic of Niger despite his Nigerian and American passports still with the registry of the court.

READ ALSO: Three Chinese Nationals Kidnapped, Police Escort Killed In Osun

“We have a bench warrant of the court for the arrest of the defendant and his apprehension before the court.

“We have been making serious efforts to execute the bench warrant but it has met challenges. The defendant has absconded to the USA,” EFCC lawyer told the court.

Faisal Maina’s lawyer, Anayo Adibe however disputed the claim of the prosecution as he insists that his client was arrested by the Nigeria Police Force in Sokoto. He urged the court to open an inquiry as to the true whereabouts of his client.

“The defendant personally called me the day he was taken into custody in Sokoto. Since then, every effort made to reach the defendant has been abortive. His phones are switched off.

“We are afraid for his life. We urge the court to cause an inquiry into the whereabouts of the defendant,” Adibe told the court.

Earlier in the course of the sitting, Justice Abang, in a committal proceeding, ordered Faisal’s surety, who is a member of the House of Representatives, Sani Dan-Galadima representing Kaura-Namoda Federal Constituency of Zamfara State, to forfeit a N60million  property used as a bail bond.

The further trial has been adjourned to March 31, 2021.

Alleged Money Laundering: Court Adjourns Maina’s Trial, Bail Hearing

A file photo of ex-pension boss Abdulrasheed Maina.
A file photo of ex-pension boss Abdulrasheed Maina.

 

A Federal High Court in Abuja has adjourned the trial and hearing of bail application of the defunct Chairman of the Pension Reformed Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina until February 19 at the instance of his lawyer, Sani Katu.

Justice Okon Abang adjourned the matter on Monday after the defence lawyer told the court that he needed more time to enable him to prepare adequately for Maina’s defence since he was coming into the matter afresh.

The lawyer, who said he was unable to meet his client at the Kuje Correctional Centre for a pre-trial conference, urged the court to adjourn the case in the interest of justice.

READ ALSO: Alleged N7.1bn Fraud: EFCC To Arraign Senate Chief Whip, Orji Kalu

Maina had in a motion on notice dated and filed on December 24, 2020, brought by his lawyer, Anayo Adibe, approached the court seeking a fresh bail due to his worsening health condition.

The judge had adjourned the hearing of the bail application until February 1 and equally fixed the continuation of trial for the same date.

However, at the resumed trial, Katu, who took over Maina’s legal team sought for an adjournment to enable him to prepare for his client’s defence.

Alleged $2m Fraud: Court Frees Atiku’s Lawyer, Uyi Giwa-Osagie

 

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has freed Uyiekpen Giwa-Osage, a lawyer to former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar.

Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of the Lagos High Court on Monday dismissed the $2million money laundering charge filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against the lawyer.

The judge held, among others, that the EFCC failed to establish that the money was obtained illegally.

READ ALSO: Lagos In Talks With COVID-19 Vaccine Manufacturers — Sanwo-Olu

The EFCC had filed a three-count against the senior lawyer for allegedly laundering $2million in the build-up to the 2019 general elections.

Also named in the charge was Erhunse Giwa-Osagie, who is said to be his brother.

The EFCC alleged that the two defendants conspired with each other to make a cash payment of $2million on February 12, 2019, without going through a financial institution.

The offence is said to be contrary to Sections 18(a) and 1(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 and were liable to be punished under Section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.

Both men had pleaded not guilty at their arraignment before the court in August 2019.

Adoke’s Alleged Money Laundering Trial Suffers Setback

A file photo of former AGF, Mr Mohammed Adoke. Channels TV/ Sodiq Adelakun.

 

The trial of a former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Mohammed Adoke, over money laundering allegations has suffered a setback.

Adoke and one other, Aliyu Abubakar, are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on charges bordering on money laundering.

The duo were charged with 14 amended counts at the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, presided over by Justice Inyang Ekwo.

In a statement on Monday, the EFCC Head of Media and Publicity, Wilson Uwujaren, explained that the trial could not go on because the former minister was absent in court.

Counsel to the defendant, Kanu Agabi, informed Justice Ekwo that his client could not make it to the court as he was held back in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

He revealed that the former minister was on the verge of returning to Nigeria when he tested positive for COVID-19 and was held back in Dubai.

Agabi, however, disclosed that his client had since tested negative for the virus after treatment but could not fly back to the country in time for the hearing.

He pleaded with the court for an extension of the time given to the defendant to take care of himself and be fit for trial.

On his part, the prosecution counsel, Bala Sanga, did not object to the request of the defence lawyer.

In his ruling, Justice Ekwo adjourned proceedings in the trial until March 1 to 4.

At the last adjourned date on December 15, 2020, the court had granted Adoke permission to travel to Dubai on health grounds but was expected to return for the hearing fixed for January 11, 2021.

However, when the case was called, the defendant was absent.

Alleged N338.8m Money Laundering: Trial Of Ex-Lagos Speaker Ikuforiji, Aide Resumes

Former Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, attends his trial over allegations of money laundering at the Federal High Court in Lagos on November 25, 2020.

 

The re-trial of the former Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, and his aide, Oyebode Atoyebi, on allegations of laundering N338.8 million continued on Wednesday at the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.

Counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ekene Iheanacho, continued with the testimony of the first prosecution witness, Adebayo Adeniyi, who is an investigative officer with the agency.

Adeniyi told the court that some cash account registers of some banks which had been admitted in exhibit were recovered from the Lagos State House of Assembly.

According to him, they showed that the second defendant, Atoyebi, collected money several times, above the financial threshold allowed by the Money Laundering Act.

Under cross-examination by the defence counsel, Dele Adesina, the witness told the court that the former speaker did not collect the cash directly from the Treasury Department of the House, but had admitted during an investigation that all the money collected by Oyebode was done on his behalf and with his approval.

At the instance of the defence counsel, Justice Mohammed Liman adjourned until December 9, for the continuation of the cross-examination.

The retrial of the former speaker and his aide commenced on September 30 and they both pleaded not guilty to the allegations of laundering about N338 million.

Justice Mohammed Liman then allowed both men to continue on an earlier bail granted to them in 2012 when they were first arraigned.

The defendants were first arraigned on March 1, 2012, before Justice Okechukwu Okeke on 20 charges bordering on misappropriation and money laundering.

A file photo of a court gavel.

 

Following a re-assignment of the case, the defendants were subsequently re-arraigned before Justice Ibrahim Buba.

Justice Buba granted them bail in the sum of N500 million each with sureties in like sum.

He later discharged the defendants on September 26, 2014, after upholding their “no case submission applications”.

The judge had held that the EFCC failed to establish a prima-facie case against them.

Dissatisfied with the ruling, the EFCC filed a Notice of Appeal dated September 30, 2014, to challenge the decision of the trial court.

It argued that the trial court erred in law when it held that the counts were incompetent because they were filed under Section 1(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004 which was repealed by an Act of 2011.

The anti-graft agency added that the lower court erred in law when it held that the provisions of Section 1 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004 and 2011, only applied to natural persons and corporate bodies other than the Government.

It also submitted that the trial judge erred in law when he held and concluded that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses supported the innocence of the respondents.

In its judgement in November 2016, the Lagos Division of the Appeal Court agreed with the EFCC and ordered a fresh trial of the defendants before another judge.

Following the decision of the appeal court, the defendants headed to the Supreme Court, seeking to overturn the ruling of the appellate court.

In its verdict in December 2017, the apex court upheld the decision of the appellate court and ordered that the case be sent back to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for reassignment to another judge.

This necessitated the current re-arraignment and re-trial before Justice Liman.

Alleged N338.8m Money Laundering: EFFC Reopens Trial Of Ex-Lagos Speaker, Ikuforiji

A file photo of a court gavel.

 

The trial of the Former Speaker of Lagos, Adeyemi Ikuforiji has been reopened at the Federal High Court in Lagos with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) calling its first witness.

Ikuforiji is standing trial alongside his former Personal Assistant, Oyebode Atoyebi on 54 counts of laundering about N338.8million.

They had both pleaded not guilty at their re-arraignment before Justice Mohammed Liman and were allowed to continue on an earlier bail granted to them in 2012 when they were first arraigned.

At the proceedings on Wednesday, Counsel for the EFCC, Ekele Ihenacho, called the first prosecution witness, Mr Adebayo Adeniyi, an investigator with the EFCC.

The witness told the court that in June 2011, a petition was written against the first defendant, Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, for allegedly siphoning N500million monthly from the Lagos House of Assembly.

The witness further testified that the EFCC investigated these claim by visiting the Office of the Clerk of the Lagos State House of Assembly. There, they recovered some documents which were instrumental to their investigation, while the clerk was invited to the Commission.

Read Also: Alleged N3.1bn Fraud: Suswam’s Trial Adjourned Till Oct 15

“We recovered some payment register and when we went through them, we discovered that a lot of cash payments were made to the second defendant, Atoyebi, and we invited him to explain why the payments were made to him

“He told us that the payments were meant for the first defendant, and when we interrogated the first defendant, he actually confirmed that the second defendant was collecting the monies for him,” he said

The EFCC prosecutor then showed the witness a bulk of document and asked him to identify them.

The witness identified pages one to 12 of the document as being the statement of the first defendant, pages 13 to 24 as the statement of the second defendant, while pages 25 to 237 as other documents recovered from the clerk’s office.

Without any objections from the Defence counsel, Mr Dele Adesina (SAN), the prosecutor tendered the documents before the court.

Justice Mohammed Liman admitted all the documents in evidence with the assurance that the court will take its time to sort them out .

When prompted on the findings from the documents, the witness testified that the EFCC discovered that series of cash payments were made to the second defendant, which were above the threshold allowed by the Money Laundering Act.

Reading from the documents admitted by the court as exhibits, the witness pointed out portions of such payments which includes cash sums of N3 million, N10m N1.7m all collected by the second defendant on behalf of the first.

“On April 27, 2010, N10 million was collected in cash by the second defendant, while on May 6, 2010, the cash sum of N1.7 million was also collected by the second defendant on behalf of the first,” he said

Justice Liman, however, queried this pattern of testimony by the prosecution, on the grounds that it was not the duty of the witness to “speak” to the documents in the manner being done.

The judge noted that such manner of examination was only wasting the time of the court, since the prosecution would also speak on same document during addresses.

He urged parties to make progress in the case, which he said had spanned a period of almost 10 years since 2011.

After listening to the court, the prosecutor asked for an adjournment to enable him do some arrangements of the documents for the ease of the court.

The defence counsel had no objections to the request for an adjournment and Justice Liman subsequently fixed Oct. 14 for continuation of trial.

The defendants were first arraigned on March 1, 2012 before Justice Okechukwu Okeke on 20 counts bordering on misappropriation and money laundering.

They had each pleaded not guilty to the charges and were granted bail.

Following are-assignment of the case, the defendants were, subsequently re-arraigned before Justice Ibrahim Buba.

Justice Buba granted them bail in the sum of N500 million each with sureties in like sun

On September 26, 2014, Justice Buba discharged the defendants after upholding their no case submission applications.

The judge had held that the EFCC failed to establish a prima-facie case against them.

Dissatisfied with the ruling, the EFCC through its counsel, Mr Godwin Obla (SAN), filed the Notice of Appeal dated Sept. 30, 2014 challenging the decision of the trial court.

Obla had argued that the trial court erred in law when it held that the counts were incompetent because they were filed under Section 1(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004 which was repealed by an Act of 2011.

The EFCC further argued that the lower court erred in law when it held that the provisions of Section 1 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004 and 2011, only applied to natural persons and corporate bodies other than the Government.

The commission had also submitted that the trial judge erred in law when he held and concluded that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses supported the innocence of the respondents.

In its judgement, the Lagos Division of the Appeal Court, in November 2016, agreed with the EFCC and ordered a fresh trial of the defendants before another judge.

Following the decision of the Appeal Court, the defendants headed to the Supreme Court, seeking to overturn the ruling of the Appellate court.

In its verdict, in December 2017, the apex court upheld the decision of the appellate court and ordered that the case be sent back to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for reassignment to another judge.

This necessitated the re-arraignment before Justice Liman.

In the charge, the EFCC alleged that the defendants accepted cash payments above the threshold set by the Money Laundering Act, without going through a financial institution.

The commission also accused the defendants of conspiring to commit an illegal act of accepting cash payments in the aggregate sum of N338.8 million from the House of Assembly without going through a financial institution.

Ikuforiji was also accused of using his position to misappropriate funds belonging to the Assembly.

The EFCC said that the defendants committed the offences between April 2010 and July 2011.

The offences, according to the EFCC, contravene the provisions of Sections 15 (1d), 16(1d) and 18 of Money Laundering Act, 2004 and 2011.

Alleged Fraud: EFCC Re-Arraigns Malabu, Seven Others

 

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Tuesday, re-arraigned Malabu Oil & Gas Limited, Aliyu Abubakar and six others before Justice I.E. Ekwo of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on 67 amended charges, bordering on money laundering to the tune of $875,740,000.

According to a statement by the Head, Media & Publicity, EFCC, Dele Oyewale, the other six defendants are Group Construction Company Limited; Rocky Top Resources Limited; Megatech Engineering Limited; Novel Properties and Development Company Limited, Imperial Union Limited and Carlin International Nigeria Limited.

The suit marked: FHC/CR/268/2016, which initially had nine counts, was filed in 2016.

Read Also: Wanted Militia Leader Gana Killed, Says Military

At the proceedings on Tuesday, EFCC Counsel, Bala Sanga told the court that he was ready with the amended charges and for the eight defendants to take their pleas.

The defendants pleaded not guilty to all the 67 charges.

Sanga then prayed the court to grant a date for commencement of trial.

Justice Ekwo adjourned the matter to Thursday, for the commencement of trial and granted that the defendants continue with their existing bail.

Money Laundering: Court Jails Two Lebanese In Possession Of $890,000

The two Lebanese jailed by the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt over money laundering. Credit: @officialEFCC

 

A Federal High Court in Port Harcourt has sentenced two Lebanese to two years in prison each over $890,000 found in their possession.

The duo – Chamseddine Waell Mohammed and Dina Jihad Khali were said to have attempted to smuggle the foreign currency out of the country before they were arrested by the Nigerian Customs Service and handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

In a statement issued on Thursday by EFCC Head, Media and Publicity, Dele Oyewale, the anti-graft agency secured their conviction before Justice I.  M. Sani of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt.

According to the statement, the Lebanese pleaded guilty to separate one count charge of money laundering preferred against them by the agency.

The offences run contrary to Section 2 (3) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as amended) and punishable under Section 2 (5) of the same Act.

READ ALSO: EFCC Probes Two Lebanese In Possession Of $890,000

At the court hearing, EFCC prosecuting Counsel, Aso Larrys Peters tendered some documents, which included a letter of invitation by Customs and statements of the defendants, as exhibits.

Similarly, a police officer and EFCC witness, Macaulay Olayinka, while being led in evidence by prosecution counsel, said the money recovered from the suspects had been deposited with the Rivers branch of the Central Bank of Nigeria for safe keeping.

“The said amount was found inside their Luggage on board a chartered flight with registration number 9HVFF to Lebanon.

“They were apprehended by the Nigeria Custom Service, Area One Command, Port Harcourt and handed over to the Port Harcourt Zonal office of the EFCC on August 12, 2020 for further investigation.

“The Convicts, Khali with Passport Number LR152975 (Republic of Lebanon) was arrested with  $670,000 while Mohammed with Passport Number LR0356598 (Republic of Lebanon) had in his possession the sum of $220,000,” he said.

Thereafter, Peter urged the Court to sentence the defendants.

However, Counsel to the defendants, Paul Ejiga begged the court to temper justice with mercy as the defendants were first time offenders who have no previous criminal record.

Subsequently, Justice Sani sentenced the defendants to two years imprisonment with an option of fine of N1million each.

The judge also ordered the “undeclared amount” to be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.