A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered a businessman, Ani Paulinus Onyeka, to forfeit to the Nigerian government $700,000 out of the $1,909,140 he had attempted to launder.

According to Rotimi Oyedepo, prosecutor for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commissioner (EFCC), Mr. Onyeka was arrested with $1,909,140 in his possession on February 23, 2014 at Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos by officers of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS). He was then handed over to the anti-graft agency.

Mr. Oyedepo said the defendant, who claimed to be from the Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville), was given the sum by one Ikechukwu Frank to be delivered to one Jude Okoye, but he attempted to transfer the money illegally without going through a financial institution.

The EFCC subsequently charged him with a two-count charge of money laundering.

After initially failing to appear in court to answer the charge, Justice Rilwan Aikawa ordered Mr. Onyeka’s rearrest on October 25, 2017.

At the resumed hearing of the matter, Mr. Onyeka admitted that he committed the offense and entered into a plea bargain with the anti-graft agency on December 4, 2017.

Narrating the details of the case at the hearing, Mr. Oyedepo displayed a letter from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) showing that the money was in its custody and confirmed that the defendant entered a plea bargain with the EFCC.  

The prosecutor subsequently urged the court to convict the defendant in view of his plea and the overwhelming evidence against him.

Justice Aikawa ordered the businessman to forfeit $700,000 to the Nigerian government.

According to the judge, the money, which is to be paid from the recovered $1,909,140 that is being kept in the safe custody of the 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 to never to be involved in economic and financial crimes within and outside the shores of Nigeria,” Justice Aikawa said.

The two counts against the accused person reads: “That you, Ani Paulinus Onyeka, on or before  February 10, 2014, at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this court, while transporting in cash the sum of $1,909,140, from the Republic of the Congo to Nigeria, failed to declare the said sum of $1,909,140, to the 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 offense 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 Muhammed 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."

Federal High Court of Lagos

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