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Court Convicts P&ID Directors For Fraud

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A Federal High Court in Maitama, Abuja, has convicted two directors of the controversial United Kingdom (UK) company, Process and Industrial Development Limited (P&ID) and its Nigerian affiliate, for fraudulent practices.

The convicts are P&ID’s commercial director, Mohammed Kuchazi and the process director, Adamu Usman. The directors’ conviction followed their guilty plea to the 11-count charges read to them during their trial yesterday.

They were convicted by Justice Inyang Ekwo for tax evasion and other crimes after the EFCC arraigned them on 11-count charges of obtaining by false pretence, dealing in petroleum products without appropriate licence, money laundering and failure to register P&ID with the Special Control Unit against Money Laundering (SCUML) as required by law.

The court ruled that all the above actions of the firm amounted to economic sabotage against the Nigerian state.

In his judegement, the trial judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo, convicted the company, incorporated in British Virgin Island, ordered its wind up in Nigeria, and the forfeiture of its properties to the federal government.

One of the charges filed against P&ID by the EFCC, reads: “That you, Process and Industrial Development Limited, being a company, incorporated in the British Virgin Island by 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.”

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.

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.”

Sanga said that “contrary to the impression sold by P&ID that it was established in Calabar, the Cross River State capital, the company did not, as much as acquire a land for an office structure.

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 10 years, an accusation the duo pleaded guilty.

The counsel to the defendants, Dandison Akurunwua, prayed the court to temper justice with mercy since the duo pleaded guilty and did not waste the time of the court on all the charges filed against them.

Accordingly, Justice Ekwo convicted them based on all the charges filed against them by the EFCC.

He also sentenced the company to wind up and its properties be forfeited to the federal government of Nigeria.

The 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 UK court at the instance of P&ID over alleged breach of a gas contract agreement between it and P&ID, describing the process leading to the judgment as “day light robbery.”

He vowed that the EFCC would forensically investigate the transaction and bring anyone found wanting to justice.

It’s Opportunity To Set Aside $9.6bn Judgement – FG

Meanwhile, the attorney-general of the federation and minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has said that the judgement avails Nigeria the opportunity to set aside the $9.6 billion award.

Malami, who described the judgment as a proof that the contract award was fraudulent, said that corruption was the foundation of the relationship that gave rise to a purported liability in the arbitral award.

The minister said: “Nigeria now has a cogent ground for setting aside the liability. Where Nigeria is expected to review its strategy in view of unfolding developments as it relates to conviction of some of the suspects that have admitted fraud and corrupt practices in the transaction that gave rise to purported award.”

He explained that the conviction secured against directors of P&ID was a judicial prove of fraudulent business relationship with Nigeria.

“The implication of today’s conviction is that Nigeria has a judicial proof of fraud and corruption as a foundation of the relationship that gave rise to a purported liability in the arbitral award,” he said.

In a statement he issued on the high court judgement, the minister said that: “a liability that is rooted in fraud and corruption cannot stand judicial enforceability.”

He, however, disclosed that Nigeria will next week, meet with legal consortium in the UK, in preparation for the case which is expected to come up on Thursday, September 26, 2019.

“Nigeria is meeting with its legal consortium early next week in the UK, in preparation for the case listed for September 26,” Malami stated.

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