Walter Wagbatsoma, who was convicted in Nigeria for involvement in the multi-billion fuel subsidy fraud under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, was, on Thursday, convicted by Leicester Crown Court in the United Kingdom for conspiracy to launder money in an international fraud and money laundering investigation.
He was sentenced to a jail term of three and a half years.
The investigation, according to the Lincolnshire Police website, was conducted by Lincolnshire Police Economic Crime Unit under Operation Tarlac. It revealed that over £12million was stolen from public agencies, including hospital trusts, housing associations and councils in the United Kingdom. The funds were then transferred to Wagbatsoma’s account in the United Kingdom.
The 47-year old Nigerian is the thirteenth defendant convicted in the trial. He was initially detained on a European Arrest Warrant in June 2016 while travelling through Germany. Shortly afterwards, he was extradited and charged with conspiring with others to launder the proceeds of fraud through his businesses in the United Kingdom. He was also barred from being a company director for six years.
Diezani's Ally Walter Wagbatsoma at his hotel in London pic.twitter.com/BNKcN5N2jN— Sahara Reporters (@SaharaReporters) July 17, 2017
Wagbatsoma, who calls himself an oil and gas businessman, was facing prosecution in Nigeria at the time of his arrest for his part in the multi-billion naira oil subsidy fraud and was sentenced, in his absence, to 10-years imprisonment last January.
Investigations by Lincolnshire Police Economic Crime Unit showed that funds fraudulently obtained in the United Kingdom were laundered through an account in Dubai. The account was controlled by an accomplice, Mr. Oluwatoyin Allison, a British citizen, who was sentenced to seven years imprisonment, in his absence, at an earlier trial in April 2017.
The Nigerian’s trial is the third for Operation Tarlac and was a sequel to the conviction of 12 other persons in the investigation which began with a complaint of fraud from Lincolnshire Partnership Foundation Trust in September 2011.
A total of £1.28million was fraudulently obtained by Wagbatsoma and his gang. Subsequently, investigators linked them to 20 other offences resulting in losses totaling £12.6million.
After the investigation, which lasted four years, those convicted bagged prison sentences of over 50-years.
Deputy Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police, Craig Naylor, was quoted by the website as saying that proceedings are underway to recover the monies obtained through conspiracy under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The judge in the case described the scam as a “sophisticated and widespread fraud in its conception and execution”.
A proud Mr. Naylor praised his officers for the work done in the investigations.
"For a small force, this investigation shows that officers in our Economic Crime department have shown real endeavour and determination in investigating what is a huge money laundering and fraud offence.
"Operation Tarlac has now seen 13 individuals given lengthy prison sentences for their part in an international offence, which has had a national impact on public bodies in the UK. As a force, we have achieved a significant impact against organized crime in this investigation and this shows the hard work by our officers,” said Naylor.