Court in Benin, jails Igbinedion, aide over N25 billion fraud


A Federal High Court sitting in Benin, Edo State yesterday afternoon sentenced the younger brother to the former governor of the State, Lucky Igbinedion, to six years and 20 years imprisonment respectively, over money laundering charges amounting to N25 billion brought against them and three others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The  now convicted accused persons Michael Igbinedion and Patrick Eboigbodin, were both personal aides to the former governor during his tenure in office.

Michael Igbinedion was found guilty on three-count charge of two years each which run concurrently but he was given an option of fine of N3 million while Igbinedion may have been lucky with the option of fine granted him his co-accused Egboigbodin was not, he was found guilty on 10 charges for two years each and would run concurrently with no option of fine after arguments by his lawyers.

Presiding judge, Justice Muhammed Liman, also pronounced that the sixth accused, PMI Security Nigeria Limited, which is a corporate body be wound down and its assets forfeited to the government.

Both counsels pleaded for an option of fine rather than jail term for their clients. Chief Richard Ahonanuogho, counsel to Eboigbodin noted that though the relevant punishment for the offence is jail term, the court also has the discretion to impose fine, adding that no money was traced to the personal benefit of the accused and as such, deserved a lighter punishment.

On his part, Alhaji Abubakar Shamsuddeen, counsel to the second accused, Michael Igbinedion said the plea for leniency became necessary since his client was a first-time offender and had no previous criminal record.

In his brief, counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Tayo Olukotun, posited that an option of fine being canvassed by the accused was not justifiable and urged the court not to be convinced by the plea of option being pleaded by their counsels.

The judge had, on Wednesday evening, reserved sentencing for yesterday on a N25 billion fraud case brought against the accused. They were accused by the EFCC of acting as stooges to the former governor to divert state funds running into billions of Naira.

The case with number FHC/11C/11 involving the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Lucky Igbinedion, Patrick Egboibodin, Michael Igbinedion, Gava Corporation, Romrig Nigeria Limited, PML Securities Company Limited and PML (Nigeria) Limited was opened on February 8, 2011 before Justice Adamu Hobon.

Eboigbodin was found guilty of count 50 – 59 while Igbinedion was found guilty of three-count charge of 79 – 81. On the counts in which the accused were discharged, Liman held that the EFCC lacked evidence to origin of illicit transactions.

They were arraigned on an 81-count charge bordering on money laundering, misappropriation of funds, conspiracy and abuse of office. The crime was committed when Igbinedion was governor of the state between 1999 and 2007.

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