BY OLUGBENGA SOYELE, Lagos
Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo of the Lagos State Special Offences Court in Ikeja convicted and sentenced a travel agent, Babawale Ponle to two-years in prison for misappropriating N10 million worth of airline tickets.
Ponle, who is the Managing Director of Travel Doctor Ltd, was convicted by the court of a four-count charge of stealing and issuing of dishonoured cheques brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The anti-graft agency had specifically accused the convict of misappropriated N10 million worth of airline tickets between March to December 2012.
According to the EFCC counsel, Samuel Daji, the tickets were given to the convict on credit by a travel company, Sound Travel Services Ltd.
Daji also claimed that Ponle issued two dud cheques to Sound Travel Services Ltd in the sum of N3 million and N7 million respectively.
He maintained that the offences contravene Section 285(7) of the Criminal Law of Lagos 2015 and Section 1 of the Dishonoured Cheques Offences Act.
But the defendant claimed in his defence during the trial that the tickets were sold by him to IRS Airlines on credit.
Justice Taiwo in her judgment, found the defendant guilty of a count of stealing and two-counts of issuing of dishonoured cheques.
She found him not guilty of one-count of stealing due to the nonappearance in court of a EFCC witness to give evidence.
Justice Taiwo in the verdict, noted that the prosecution had succeeded in proving that part of the N10 million was diverted by the defendant for his own use.
“This court is mindful of the fact that this case emanated from a business arrangement between the defendant and the complainant.
“However the defendant since 2013 has failed to pay anything to the complainant. The court is satisfied that he used out of the N10 million for his personal use.
” In light of this fact I hereby sentence the defendant to two-years imprisonment or a fine of N250,000.
“On the two-counts of issuance of dud cheques, I hereby sentence the defendant to one-year in prison or a fine of N200,000,” she said.
The judge said that restitution will not be ordered in the case because complainant had already been awarded restitution via a civil suit.
She noted that Justice Oyekan Abudullahi of a Lagos High Court had in a judgement ordered N10 million to be paid by Ponle as restitution to the complainant over the same issue.
Earlier in her judgment, Justice Taiwo had given a breakdown of how the funds were misappropriated by the convict.
She said, “By Exhibit A, the defendant conceded that in the month of December 2012, IRS Airlines paid the defendant the sum of N3.3million.
“The N3.3million was part payment for tickets sold to IRS Airlines in the sum of N7 million leaving a balance of N3.7million.
“The defendant revealed the part payment of N6.3million to the complainant. The statements revealed that no payments were made to Sound Travels after 2012 except the two cheques issued to the defendant which bounced.”