The Court of Appeal, sitting in Lagos, Tuesday affirmed the conviction of a Congolese, Kutumisana Mbutu Blaise, and forfeiture of $551,225 to the federal government over money laundering.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had arraigned Blaise on April 21, 2015 before Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Lagos Federal High Court.
Spokesman of the EFCC, Tony Orilade, in a statement, disclosed that, “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.”
But dissatisfied Blaise, according to Orilade, approached the Lagos Court of Appeal, for intervention, asking the appellate court to set aside the judgement of the lower court.
In a unanimous ruling, three Justices of the Appellate Court, in the persons of Mohammed Lawal Garba, Tom Shaibu Yakubu and Jamilu Mammama Tukur, upheld the verdict of the lower court.
Orilade added that 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.
Explaining why the judgement of the lower court was upheld, Orilade quoted Justice Yakubu as saying: “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.”