BY OLUGBENGA SOYELE, Lagos
Justice Ayokunle Faji of the Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday convicted two fraudsters, who operated an unregistered Bureau De Change (BDC) Uju Peace Iziogu and Mr Richard Owegie for defrauding their victims of the sum of N162 million.
The judge convicted the two fraudsters alongside their company, Reoworld Enterprises Limited of the three-count charge of conspiracy, obtained by false pretence and fraud brought against them by the Police Special Fraud Unit (PSFU).
The court in its judgment found the convicts guilty of the crimes, holding that it was satisfied that the prosecution proved its case beyond every reasonable doubt.
The convicts and their unregistered company were arraigned before the court sometimes in September 2017, for defrauding their victims, mostly traders, to the tune of N162 million under the false pretence of assisting them to transfer money to China, Dubai and Turkey.
PSFU in the charge alleged that the convicts by false representation fraudulently obtained and received and retained the proceeds of fraud.
While the second convict, Richard, was alleged to have aided the first convict, Uju, to obtain the said N162 million from Barrister Nwosu, who sourced the money from his different clients, and allow his Diamond Bank account to be used to receive and retain the money and later diverted and disbursed it to third parties on the instructions of the first accused.
The offences according to the police are contrary to and punishable under sections 8(a) and 1(3), and 1(a) and 1(3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act No. 14 of 2014.
The defence lawyer, E. O. Okoli, in his allocutus urged the court to take into consideration the length of time the first convict, Uju, has spent in custody.
He also pointed out that the second convict acted ignorantly.
Okoli also urged the court to consider the length of time Owegie has spent in custody.
However, the prosecutor, Emmanuel Jackson, in his submission told the court that the Uju is still facing another charge of obtaining under false pretence before another judge of the Federal High Court.
Jackson urged to strike a balance between the convicts and their victims who have been driven out of business for the past four years.
The police lawyer noted that they are young men who are trying to find their feet in a very harsh environment but were swindled of their hard earned money by the convicts.
The prosecutor also reminded the court that it has the power to make an order of restitution of the sum of N121, 960.00 which the convicts admitted in favour of the victims.
He further prayed the court to invoke section 11 of the Advance Fee Fraud Act, Section 10 ( sub 2) of the same Act in respect of a convicted corporate body which stipulated the winding up of such corporate organisation and forfeiture if it’s assets.
Jackson further submitted that by Section 1 ( sub 3) of the Advance Fee Fraud Act and the various judgements of the Supreme Court, no court has the discretion to go below the minimum punishment prescribed by the law.
Meanwhile, Justice Faji has adjourned the matter till December 4, 2020 to enable Okoli to make further allocutus following his submission that one of the convicts has health issues and for sentencing.
Count one of the charge against the convicts read: “That you Uju Peace Iziogu, alongside Richard and Reoworld Enterprises between January and May 2016, conspired among themselves to fraudulently obtained the sum of N162 million from a lawyer, Nwosu Maduabuchi, under the pretence that they will assist him in sending it to his clients in China, Dubai and Turkey, for the payment of goods he ordered for.