By Musa Ubandawaki, Sokoto
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, secured the conviction of two Chinese nationals, Mr. Meng Wei Kun and Mr. Xu Kuai, before Justice Abubakar Mahmud Talba of the Court of Appeal Sokoto Division on Friday.
The two Chinese nationals were convicted and sentenced to prison terms each on Count 1 and Count 2 on the appeal brought against the judgment of the Federal High Court Sokoto which discharged and acquitted the accused persons on a 3-count charge bordering on conspiracy, money laundering and attempted bribery to the tune of N50 million brought against them by the Sokoto Zonal Command of the EFCC.
Delivering a unanimous judgment, Justice Talba berated the respondents that tried to frustrate the appeal through maneuverings stating that “Gone are the days of technicalities in Law”, emphasising that “Courts must allow cases to be heard on merits”.
Justice Talba determined that the EFCC had proven Count 1 and 2 of the 3 Count charge before the Federal High Court beyond reasonable doubt but agreed with the lower Court on count 3 and accordingly struck it out because a similar Charge is pending before the High Court in Sokoto State.
According to Justice Talba, “the respondents are charged with conspiracy and making a cash payment in excess of the threshold provided by the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 as amended in 2012 to Abdullahi Lawal (then zonal head of EFCC Sokoto) which was established beyond reasonable doubt before the lower court but surprisingly the trial Judge summersaulted in his judgement and recanted”.
Justice Talba added “I regret to say that the judgment is like a fiction by the trial judge who created doubts in his mind while discharging his responsibilities”. “Without doubt, the trial judge grossly misconceived that no offence was committed”
The Judge went further “Conspiracy is a distinct offence even if the commission of the actual offence is aborted, and in the instant case there exists positive cogent inescapable evidence the offence was committed”
Justice Talba, therefore, held that the appeal is “immensely meritorious” and convicted and sentenced the Chinese nationals to 3 years on each on the two counts with an option of N10 million fine each on each count.
The Justice of the Court of Appeal said “before I draw the curtain, the respondents are Chinese and an offence of this gravity in their home country attracts the death penalty yet here they are corrupting our country. The Courts of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will not condone corruption in any way; as President Muhammadu Buhari has said if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria”.
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