•Reduces jail term to 7 years
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal yesterday upheld the conviction of Faisal, son of the jailed former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Taskforce Team, PRTT, Abdulrasheed Maina.
Faisal, who is 22 years old, was on October 7, 2021, convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison by the Federal High Court in Abuja.
The court, in the judgement that was delivered by trial Justice Okon Abang, found Faisal guilty on all three-count money laundering charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him.
The defendant, who jumped bail on June 24, 2020, and failed to appear in court for his trial, was convicted in absentia.
EFCC told the court that it got an intelligence that he escaped to the United States of America, USA.
Consequently, the trial court ordered that he should be arrested whenever he is found in the country and remanded in any prison to serve his jail term.
It held that the Federal Government should upon confirming that he ran outside the country, “legally or lawfully commence extradition process to bring him into the country to serve the jail term”.
However, dissatisfied with the judgement, lawyers to the defendant went to the appellate court to set it aside.
They argued that the appellant was denied fair hearing by the trial court.
Delivering judgement in the matter on Thursday, a three-member panel of the appellate court, while upholding Faisal’s conviction, however described the 14 years jail term that was handed to him by the trial court as “excessive”.
It noted that the appellant, being a first time offender, should not have been slammed with the maximum punishment prescribed by the law.
Consequently, the appellate court, in its lead judgement that was delivered by Justice Ugochukwu Ogakwu, reduced Faisal’s term of imprisonment to seven years.
The trial court had in its verdict, held that the EFCC, successfully established that Faisal operated a fictitious bank account with the United Bank for Africa, UBA, through which his father, Maina, laundered the sum of N58.11million.
The court noted that the said fund which was deposited into the account that was operated in the name of Alhaji Faisal Farm 2, was sequentially withdrawn by the Defendant and his father, between October 2013 and June 2019.
Justice Abang said he was satisfied that the EFCC proved all the essential ingredients of the charge, stressing that the Defendant reasonably ought to have known that inflows into the bank account formed proceeds of an unlawful act of corruption by his father.
While the court sentenced the Defendant to 5 years in count 1 and 3 of the charge, he was sentenced to 14 years on count 2 of the charge.
The court held that the sentence would run concurrently, starting from the judgement day.
Besides, the court ordered that the company, through which the fund was laundered, Alhaji Faisal Farm 2, be wound up, with all the funds in it, forfeited to the government.
The trial court had also sentenced Faisal’s father, Maina, to eight years in prison over his involvement in money laundering to the tune of about N2billion.
Maina had also jumped bail and was subsequently arrested in Niger Republic by the Interpol and returned back to the country for the conclusion of his trial.