A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday convicted and sentenced Faisal, son of the Chairman, defunct Pension Reformed Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina, to a 24-year imprisonment.
Justice Okon Abang, in his judgment, held that Faisal, who was committed to prison in absentia, was guilty of all the three-count charge filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
He noted that though the defendant (Faisal) was given the opportunity to be heard, he failed to take the advantage to defend himself.
The judge held that the EFCC had successfully established that Faisal operated a fictitious bank account domiciled at the United Bank for African (UBA), through which his father, Maina, laundered the sum of N58.1 million.
Abang stressed further that the anti-graft agency, through the three persecution witnesses (PW) it called, including a branch manager of the bank, was able to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.
“The PW1’s name is Mano Bashir, a branch manager of UBA, who testified that she is the sister-in-law to defendant’s father.
“The account documents were tendered to the prosecution through the PW1, that she knew the defendant and his father, Abdulrasheed Maina.
“That she had opened many bank accounts for the defendant’s father and registered business name in her bank without carrying out requisite due diligence.
“That one of such accounts is account number: 1017558607, bearing the account name: Alhahi Faisal Abdullahi Farm,” he said.
The judge said the PW2, Mohammed Goji, who was the lead investigative officer with the EFCC, testified about the investigation carried out by the team and their findings which indicted the defendant.
Abang held that though the PW1 and PW2 were crossed examined by the defence counsel, their evidence, under cross examination, did not run contrary to the evidence of the prosecution.
He said the PW3, Hawa Ibrahim, was another investigative officer that was able to establish that Faisal failed to declare some companies and property in the EFCC Asset Declaration Form administered to him.
The judge said though the defence counsel had all the time and facility to cross examine the witness on this testimony, they failed to avail themselves of this opportunity.
He recalled that Faisal had claimed that the funds in the account were given to him by his parents as gift.
But Abang said: “The origin of the funds in the account, in my view, is tainted with illegality.”
The judge, who said such money was above the legitimate earning of Maina, his father, asked: “How can a father give a monetary gift to his son which is above his salary?”
He held that he was satisfied that the prosecution had established evidence against the defendant in his bid to conceal account with the aim of laundering money between October 2013 and June 2019.
According to the Abang, the money which was deposited into the account that was operated in the name of Alhaji Faisal Farm 2, was sequentially withdrawn by the defendant and his father, between October 2013 and June 2019.
The judge, who stressed that he was satisfied that the EFCC proved all the essential ingredients of the charge, said Faisal reasonably ought to have known that inflows into the bank account formed proceeds of an unlawful act of corruption by his father.
Justice Abang, therefore, handed down a five-year-jail term for count one bordering on money laundering offence, besides sentencing him to 14 years imprisonment on count two.
He, thereafter, sentenced the son of the ex-pension reformed boss to five years prison term on count three which bordered on asset declaration offence.
The judge, however, ruled that the prison terms would run concurrently, beginning from Thursday.
Abang, who ordered the Federal Government to get Faisal arrested anywhere he is found in the country, also ordered that an arrest warrant for his extradition should be issued in accordance with the law against him if found outside the country in order for him to serve his prison term.
Justice Abang, who ordered Faisal to return the sum of N58.1 million to the coffers of the Federal Government, directed the company he used to wind up.
He also dismissed an application by Faisal’s counsel, A.A. Onoja, for allocutus (a plea for leniency) after his client’s conviction, saying such request could not have been granted since the defendant (Faisal) was not in court.
The judge held that the defendant, who was not in court, jumped bail and had been on the run.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that on July 16, Justice Abang had fixed the matter for judgment after the then Economic and Financial Cimes Commission (EFCC)’s Lawyer, Mohammed Abubakar, adopted the commission”s final written address and urged the court to convict Faisal in all the three counts levelled against him, “the prosecution having proved the case beyond all reasonable doubt.”
NAN reports that Faisal’s counsel, A. A . Onoja, who did not filed any final written address, had sought for an adjournment on the grounds that he was not briefed on the development in the case.
The EFCC lawyer, however, opposed his plea for an adjournment, arguing that on March 17 when the case was adjourned, Anayo Adibe, who appeared for Faisal, did not apply to file any written address, even after the ruling was delivered, saying “four months since that day, the defence has not done anything.”
The judge, who dismissed the application for adjournment, held that the request was made in bad faith.
NAN reports that Faisal, who is being prosecuted along his father, Maina, is standing a separate trial on a three-count charge bordering on money laundering.
He, however, pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Faisal, who was arraigned by the EFCC on Oct. 25, 2019, was admitted to bail, on Nov. 26, 2019, in the sum of N60 million with a surety in the like sum who must be a member of House of Representatives.
However, Faisal jumped bail around September 2020 and stopped attending his trial.
The judge, on Nov. 25, 2020, summoned the lawmaker, Rep Sani Dan-Galadima, representing Kaura-Namoda Federal Constituency of Zamfara, who stood as surety for Faisal, for disregarding court order to produce the defendant in court after he was granted bail.
Abang then revoked the bail granted Faisal, ordered his arrest and directed that his trial should proceed in absentia having being said to have jumped bail by the prosecution.
The judge also ordered the surety to forfeit the property which he used as a bail bond to the Federal Government, having failed to produce Faisal.
▪︎ By NAN