A Federal High Court in Benin, Edo State on Thursday sentenced a younger brother of ex-Governor Lucky Igbinedion, Michael, to a six-year jail term for N25bn money laundering offences.
An aide of the ex-governor, Patrick Eboigbodin, was also jailed for 20 years for the same of offences.
However, the governor’s brother has an option of paying N3m or N1m for each of the three counts on which he was found guilty to avoid going to jail.
Eboigbodin sentencing on Thursday is without an option of fine.
The two convicts and four companies had been arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on an 81-count charge of money laundering during the tenure of Lucky Igbinedion as governor.
The four companies are Gava Corporation Limited, Romrig Nigeria Limited, PML Securities Company Limited and PML Nigeria Limited.
Justice A.M. Liman found Michael guilty on counts 79, 80 and 81 of the alleged charges while Eboigbodin was found guilty on counts 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58 and 59.
The judge also ordered the forfeiture of the assets of PML Limited to the Federal Government. The company will also pay N250,000 fine.
Liman noted that the prosecution had proved the alleged collaboration by the accused beyond reasonable doubts but he discharged them all on the other count charges on the grounds that the prosecution failed to prove the allegations.
The judge further explained that the prosecution only proved suspicion but failed to prove illicit origin of funds deposited in the named banks.
Earlier, the counsel to the first, third, fourth, fifth and sixth accused persons, Richard Ahonanuogho, acknowledged that the 10-count charges brought against his clients centred on money laundering as contained in Section 14 (1) of the Money Laundering Act (2004) and the law provided a sentence of two to three years imprisonment.
He, however, urged the court to use its discretion to award a fine or apply a suspended sentence as the first accused, the ex-governor’s brother, was a first offender, in his late 50’s and had not benefited from the said offence.
Counsel to the second accused, Abubakar Shamsudeen, had told the court that his client, Eboigbodin , had pleaded leniency based on his age and being a first offender and a victim of the office he occupied when the offence was committed.
He, therefore, urged the court to apply an option of fine, not below N250,000 or N500,000, and not more than N1m, in lieu of imprisonment.
But the counsel to the EFCC, Tayo Olukotun, urged the court not to be persuaded by the plea for leniency by the accused, arguing that their conviction would be in line with the provision of the law and that the call for suspended sentence was not within the court’s jurisdiction.
The prosecution also submitted that the claim of non-criminal benefit by the first accused was not an issue because the crime had already been established.
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