The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, yesterday secured the conviction of commercial director of Process and Industrial Developments Limited, (P&ID), Mohammed Kuchazi and the company’s director of process, Adamu Usman for tax evasion, and other crimes.
The judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo of Federal High Court, sitting in Maitama, Abuja also entenced the company, incorporated in British Virgin Island to wind up in Nigeria and its properties, forfeited to the federal government.
The duo were arraigned on 11-count charges, bordering on obtaining by false pretence; dealing in petroleum products without appropriate license; money laundering and failure to register P&ID with the Special Control Unit against Money Laundering (SCUML) as required by law, amounting to economic sabotage against the Nigerian state.
One of the charges reads: “That you, Process and Industrial Development Limited, being a company, incorporated in the British Virgin Island, Michael Quinn (deceased), Brendan Cahill (at large), Neil Hitchcock (deceased), Muhammad Kuchazi and Grace Taiga on or about the 11th of January, 2010 in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court with intent to defraud made a false statement in Paragraph 8 (g) of the Gas Supply and Processing Agreement (GSPA) to wit: the parties are aware that the 24-inch Adanga Pipeline, presently under construction from the Addax operated OML 123 directly to Calabar and due for completion in 2010 which part of the said agreement you knew to be false and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 362 (a) of the Penal Code and punishable under Section 364 of the same law.”
The defendants pleaded guilty to all the eleven count charges.
While urging the court to convict them according to their plea, the prosecuting counsel Bala Sanga presented to the court, statements of account, showing massive withdrawals of dollars, some running into as much as $700,000 and some of which established the violation of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, as well as the law on Advance Fee Fraud.
He revealed that “contrary to the impression sold by P&ID that it was established in Calabar, the Cross Rivers capital, the company did not as much as acquire a land for an office structure.
“Section 10 (1) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act 2006 states that “Where an offence under this Act which has been committed by a body corporate is proved to have been committed on the instigation or with the connivance of or attributable to any neglect on the part of a director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate, or any person purporting to act in any such capacity, he, as well as the body corporate, where practicable, shall be deemed to have committed that offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.”
It further provides that “Where a body corporate is convicted of an offence under this Act, the High Court may order that the body corporate shall thereupon and without any further assurance, but for such order, be wound up and all its assets and properties forfeited to the Federal Government.”
Testifying as prosecuting witness, Babangida Umar Hussaini, an operative of the EFCC proved with evidence how Kuchazi (first defendant) and Usman(second defendant) conspired and sabotaged the country’s economy by evading tax payment for a period of ten years; an accusation the duo agreed to be true.
Counsel for the defendants, however, prayed the court to temper justice with mercy since the duo did not waste the time of the court with their immediate plea of guilt to all the charges against them.
Justice Ekwo convicted them based on all the charges levelled against them by the EFCC.
He sentenced the company to wound up and its properties be forfeited to the federal government of Nigeria.
Recall that EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu, had disclosed that the Commission had commenced investigation into the circumstances leading to the $9.6billion arbitral award against Nigeria by a United Kingdom court over alleged breach of gas contract agreement between it and P&ID, describing the process leading to the judgment as “day light robbery.”
He vowed that the Commission will forensically investigate the transaction and bring anyone one found wanting to justice.
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