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Court convicts Igbinedion, fines him N3.5m

Posted by Written by Tony Edike on 2008/12/19 | Views: 1354 |

Court convicts Igbinedion, fines him N3.5m


FORMER Governor of Edo State, Chief Lucky Igbinedion, was yesterday convicted by the Federal High Court, Enugu on one count charge of failure to fully declare his assets.

* EFCC kicks, heads for Appeal Court

FORMER Governor of Edo State, Chief Lucky Igbinedion, was yesterday convicted by the Federal High Court, Enugu on one count charge of failure to fully declare his assets.

He was convicted for neglecting to make a declaration of his interest in the account no. 4124013983110 which he held with the Guaranty Trust Bank in the declaration of assets form of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The EFCC in a swift reaction, however, said it was disappointed in the verdict and was heading for the Appeal Court.

Igbinedion narrowly escaped prison terms of five years as stipulated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Act as the trial judge, Justice Abdulahi Kafarati relied on section 18 subsection 1 of the Money Laundering Act 2004 to grant him fine option of N3.5 million, which is an equivalent sum he holds with the bank.

The anti-graft agency earlier last year arraigned the former governor on 191-count charge of money laundering, embezzlement and corruption but later dropped some of the charges, which it later amended to 24 with Igbinedion getting only one charge.

The other 23 in the amended charge sheet were preferred against the second accused, KIVA Corporation Limited.

Although his alleged ownership of the company could not be established, the court, however, handed down a N500 million fine against it (company) as well as forfeiture of the landed property at Asokoro, Abuja and two buildings at the Government Reserved Area (GRA) Benin.

When the case resumed yesterday, the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, informed the court that the prosecution had withdrawn the charges against other accused persons and filed an amended 24-count charge against the first accused which he prayed should be read to him.

Igbinedion, who had come to the court with some of his aides, thereafter entered into the dock where he pleaded guilty to the amended charge against him.

The charge read: "That you Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion (former Governor of Edo State) on or about 21st January 2008 within the jurisdiction of this honourable court neglected to make a declaration of your interest in the account no.

4124013983110 with Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) in the Declaration of Assets Form of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 27(3) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission act 2004."

Jacobs had said the accused was required under the law to declare his assets and interests in the declaration of assets form which he failed to do, stressing that the action of the former governor was intentional as "he wanted to hide something from law and public."

Shortly before the judge adjourned for a while to prepare the judgment, Igbinedion's counsel, Adetunji Oyeyipo, made a plea for leniency and enjoined the court to consider the fact that his client voluntarily returned to the country from abroad to face trial when he learnt that the EFCC had filed charges against him.

In his ruling, Justice Kafarati found Igbinedion guilty and convicted him accordingly. Relying on Section 18 subsections 1 of the Money Laundering Act 2004, he gave the accused an option of fine of N3.5 million while the company is to forfeit the landed property at Asokoro, Abuja and two buildings in Edo State.

EFCC heads for Appeal Court

However, the EFCC in its reaction said it was disappointed by the verdict of the court which converted the sentence to a fine.

The commission's head, Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Babafemi said: "The former governor had sought for a plea bargain in the course of his prosecution by the EFCC. The outcome of the exercise at the court in Enugu, however, fell short of the expectation of the commission.

"It is believed that the essence of a plea bargain is not only for suspects to forfeit the proceeds of crime but that such should go with a sentence which will serve as deterrence.

"In view of this development, the chairman of the EFCC, Mrs. Farida Waziri, has instructed the commission's counsel to file an appeal against the verdict immediately.

"The commission will rather go the long way of prosecution than to settle for a plea bargain verdict that has no bite or will not serve any deterrence purpose."

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.