By IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI
ABUJA – Justice Adamu Bello of the Federal High Court, Abuja, yesterday, convicted one Abulrasheed Ibrahim after he was found guilty of attempting to smuggle $188,858 out of Nigeria.
Though Ibrahim had on January 17, pleaded guilty to a one-count charge preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, he, however, suddenly made a U-turn on Monday, saying he was being framed up by the anti-graft agency.
The accused had in an application, wherein he begged the high court to discountenance his earlier admittance of guilt, alleged that he was compelled to plead guilty to the charge, adding that EFCC misrepresented facts pertaining to the circumstances that occasioned his arrest.
Besides, he had told the trial court that he did not properly understand the charge on the day it was read to him, maintaining that he duly declared all the cash on him the day he was apprehended at the airport by security agents.
Sequel to that twist in the case, Justice Bello deferred his sentencing till yesterday to enable the court hear his fresh application to set aside the previous plea.
However, at the resumed sitting on the matter, the accused person begged the court to allow him retain his earlier guilty plea, just as he applied to withdraw his application.
Likewise, his counsel, Efut Okoi urged the court to temper justice with mercy, describing the accused person as a first time offender, an honest business man that had lots of dependants.
He equally asked the court to take cognizance of the fact that the charge attracted an option of fine which he said should be applied against the convict.
Consequently, Justice Adamu Bello, ordered that 25 per cent of the total sum be forfeited and paid into the Federal Government treasury by the court accountant, adding that the remaining money should be returned to the convict through his lawyer.
EFCC had on November 7, 2012, apprehended the accused person on allegation that he attempted to smuggle $188, 858 out of Nigeria through a Dubai/United Arab Emirates- bound Ethiopian Airline flight.