Money Laundering: Appeal Court Affirms Conviction of Congolese, Forfeiture of $551,225 to FG

The Court of Appeal in Lagos has affirmed the conviction of a Congolese, Kutumisana Mbutu Blaise and the forfeiture of $551,225 (Five Hundred and Fifty One Thousand Two Hundred and Twenty Five Dollars) only to the Federal Government.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) had arraigned the convict on April 21, 2015 before Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, Lagos.

Lawyer to the EFCC, Abba Muhammed had urged Justice Buba to convict Blaise, following his failure to declare the said $551,225 in his possession to the men of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) at the point of entry into Nigeria.

According to Abba, Blaise’s action is contrary to Section 2 (3) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended by Act No 1 of 2012.

In his judgement on July 7, 2015, Justice Buba upheld the argument of the EFCC’s lawyer and sentenced Blaise accordingly.

The judge further directed that the said $551,225, which Blaise failed to declare, be forfeited to the Federal Government.

Dissatisfied with the verdict of Justice Buba, the convict approached the Court of Appeal, Lagos for intervention, asking the appellate court to set aside the judgment of the lower court.

But in a unanimous judgment by three Justices of the Court of Appeal: Mohammed Lawal Garba, Tom Shaibu Yakubu and Jamilu Mammama Tukur, the appellate court affirmed the verdict of the lower court.

The appellate court further concurred with the decision of the lower court over the forfeiture of the undeclared money, saying that the said amount be forfeited to the Federal Government.

On why the judgment of the lower court was affirmed, Justice Yakubu, who read the lead judgment of the appellate court, said, “I have myself perused the pieces of evidence proffered by the witnesses at the court below vis-a-vis the findings made by the learned trial judge which ultimately culminated in the conviction of the appellant (Blaise).

“I am satisfied that those findings are clearly borne out of the evidence placed before his lordship. The findings are, to my mind, unassailable. I have no reason whatsoever to tamper or interfere with them. I affirm them accordingly. In the end, I resolve the sole issue in this appeal against the appellant.

Tony Orilade

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