Two bag four years, forfeits $5.4m under-declaration

A Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday jailed two businessmen, Rowland Ojukwu and Linus Ngene, for two years each for their failure to declare the sums of $2.9million and $2.5million respectively to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.

The trial judge, Justice Ibrahim Buba, ordered the convicts to forfeit the cash sums to the Federal Government. Ojukwu and Ngene had been separately arraigned on a charge of money laundering by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The EFCC prosecutor, Vincent Latona, had told the court how Ojukwu, who was on his way to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on October 8, last year, failed to declare the foreign currency to the NCS.

He also told the court during Ngene’s trial, that the China-bound convict made partial disclosure to the Customs, claiming that he carried only $11,500 while he actually had $2.5million on him.

According to Latona, Ojukwu and Ngene acted contrary to sections 2, 2 (5) and 3 of the Money Laundering (prohibition) Act 2011 as amended by Act 1 of 2012.

But during their separate arraignment, Ojukwu and Ngene pleaded not guilty.

In a bid to prove his case, Latona called eight witnesses and tendered eight exhibits.

In his judgment, Justice Buba said he was satisfied that the prosecution proved its case against the convicts beyond reasonable doubts.

The judge said it was obvious that the convicts knew what they were doing, stressing that they needed to be punished to send a signal to others who might want to toe their path.

In the case of Ojukwu, the judge held, “There is no doubt that the accused passed the gate without declaring the sum; that evidence stands as tall as the rock of Gibraltar; at all times the accused knew what he was doing.

“Facts are certain, they do not lie. Lies are like bats, once in the dark, they elude everyone but once exposed to the rays of light, they hang stupidly as one of the ugliest creatures.

“This court has no doubt in holding that the prosecution proved its case beyond reasonable doubts; accordingly, the accused is convicted as charged. 

“The accused is hereby sentenced to a term of two years imprisonment beginning from February 9, 2016.

“The undeclared sum is ordered to be forfeited to the federal government.” 

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