The sum of N36 million and 35.58 kilogrammes of gold bars confiscated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) have been forfeited to the Nigerian Government.
The order of forfeiture was given by a Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday.
Justice Muslim S. Hassan, who made the order, also ordered the federal civil servant to pay N10million to the government for his part in the deal.
The first to third defendants are: Bukar Mandara Zarami; his company, Bukar Mandara Zarami Ltd and a Director in the Ministry of Mines and Steel, Kar Nap Fenan Wuyep.
The trio was re-arraigned on an amended two-count charge of possession of 35.58 kilogrammes of gold bars wrapped in six bags without appropriate permit.
The counts read in part: “That you, Bukar Mandara Zarami, on or about the 9th day of November, 2018 in Nigeria…dealt in 35.58 kilogrammes of gold bars wrapped in six bags without appropriate permit; and you, therefore, committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 134(c) of the Nigerian Mineral and Mining Act, 2007.”
“That you, Kar Nap Fenan Wuyep, on or about the 22nd day of May, 2018 in Nigeria, without going through any financial institution, accepted cash payment of the sum of $19,440 from one Bakkkuk Steven Goyol, which sum exceeded the amount authorised by the Law; and, you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1)(a), Section 16(1) (d) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 as Amended and punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.”
The defendants pleaded “guilty”.
In view of their plea, prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo obtained leave of court to review the facts of the case.
Oyedepo recounted how first defendant, Zarami was apprehended at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos on November 11, 2018 with 35.58 kilogrammes of gold bars wrapped in six bags.
Oyedepo said: “He (Zarami) was brought to the Lagos Zonal office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, where the gold bars were measured and counted in the presence of the first defendant, his counsel, a representative of the Ministry of Mines and Steel. All parties present signed the measurements document.”
He told the court that investigations revealed that the first and second defendants did not have the appropriate permit to possess or deal in 35.58kg of gold.
Oyedepo said although the first defendant, in his statement to the EFCC, stated that he gave an official of the Ministry, Steven Bakkuk, about N3, 000,000 (Three Million Naira) as royalty, investigation showed that the actual amount he was supposed to pay as royalty was N6,772,64,16.
According to Oyedepo: “This shows clearly that there was no appropriate permit for that quantity of gold bars.
“Investigation further revealed that instead of the official from the Ministry, who received the money from the first defendant, to put the funds in the treasury, he transferred the sum of N700,000 to the third defendant, who is a Director in the Ministry of Mines and Steel.
“This led to further investigation into the account of Bakkuk, whose account was used for transfers of unlawful enrichment.
“It was discovered that about N28m in tranches was sent to the third defendant.
“On May 22, 2018, the sum of $19,440 in cash was given to the third defendant, which is in excess of the amount authorized by Law to be received in cash and it constitutes an offence against the Money Laundering Act 2011.”
The prosecution informed the court further that the defendants had entered a plea bargain with the government.
He said: “The first defendant has issued a cheque of N3,000,000 in favour of the Federal Government as one of the terms agreed upon in the plea bargain.
“The first defendant, as part of the plea bargain, also agreed to forfeit the undeclared 5.5 kilogrammes of Gold Bars to the Federal Government.
“It was also agreed that the EFCC, in conjunction with the Deputy Chief Registrar of this Honourable Court, would facilitate the sale of the forfeited Gold Bars and the proceeds will be remitted into the Consolidated Revenue Funds Account of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“Third defendant, in the plea bargain, agreed to pay a fine of N10million and forfeit the recovered Access Bank drafts to the tune of N36million.”
In view of their guilty plea, Oyedepo prayed the court to convict the defendants on the amended charge and prayed the court to sentence them to the terms agreed in the plea bargain.
Justice Hassan, upheld the terms of the plea bargain and convicted the defendants.
The judge held: “The plea bargain is made the judgment of the court.”