Saturday, December 4, 2021

Son of Nigeria’s former pension boss, Faisal Maina jailed for money laundering

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Faisal Maina, son of the former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Taskforce Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, was yesterday convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison by the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.

The court, in a judgement delivered by trial Justice Okon Abang, found Faisal guilty on all the three-count money laundering charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him.

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The 22-year-old Faisal, who had since June 24, 2020, failed to appear for his trial, was convicted in absentia.

The court ordered that he should be arrested anywhere he is found in Nigeria and remanded in any Correctional Service Center to serve his jail term immediately.

In the event that it is confirmed that the convict escaped from the country after he jumped bail, the court, in the judgement, ordered that the Federal Government should upon tracing him to anywhere outside the court, “legally or lawfully commence extradition process to bring him into the country to serve the jail term”.

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It held that the EFCC, successfully established that Faisal operated a fictitious bank account with the United Bank for Africa, UBA, through which his father, Maina, laundered the sum of N58.11million.

The court noted that the said fund which was deposited into the account that was operated in the name of Alhaji Faisal Farm 2,  was sequentially withdrawn by the Defendant and his father, between October 2013 and June 2019.

Justice Abang said he was satisfied that the EFCC proved all the essential ingredients of the charge, stressing that the Defendant reasonably ought to have known that inflows into the bank account formed proceeds of an unlawful act of corruption by his father.

While the court sentenced the Defendant to 5 years in count 1 and 3 of the charge, he was sentenced to 14 years on count 2 of the charge.

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The court held that the charge would run concurrently, starting from the judgement day.

Besides, the court ordered that the company, through which the fund was laundered, Alhaji Faisal Farm 2, be wound up, with all the funds in it, forfeited to the government.

Though a lawyer, A. A. Onoja, had announced his appearance for the Defendant, Justice Abang held that the Defendant, having abandoned his trial and jumped bail, lost the opportunity to make a plea of allocutus for the mitigation of his punishment.

He held that the Supreme Court had barred lawyers from making a plea of allocutus for Defendants, as such would amount to giving evidence from the Bar.

The court had on November 24, 2020, shortly after it revoked Faisal’s bail, issued a bench warrant for security agencies to arrest him wherever he is found.

EFCC had closed its case against him after it called three witnesses that testified in the matter.

While the 1st Prosecution Witness, PW-1, was Maina’s sister who is a banker that helped to open the bank account, the PW-2 and PW-3 were EFCC operatives that investigated the matter.

The anti-graft agency had alleged that Maina’s son had sometimes between 2013 and 2019, received a deposit of the sum of N58.11million, being proceeds of a corrupt act by his father.

He was also accused of failing to properly declare his assets before the EFCC.

Faisal, who is a student, had in his extra-judicial statement, claimed that the entire money the EFCC traced to the bank account, was a gift that was given to him by his father.

Before he was released on bail, the Defendant, was initially remanded in police custody after the prosecution notified the court that he was being investigated on allegation bordering on his alleged possession of illegal firearm.

Faisal had reportedly pulled a gun to challenge operatives of the Department of State Service, DSS that arrested his father at a hotel in Abuja on September 30, 2019.

The EFCC told the court that it got intelligence report that he escaped to the United States of America, USA, through Niger Republic.

The court earlier ordered his surety, Umar Dan-Galadima, who is a member representing Kaura-Namoda Federal Constituency, to forfeit the N60m bail bond on the head of the Defendant, to FG.

It will be recalled that Faisal’s father, Maina, who is facing a separate 12-count money laundering charge, also jumped bail and was later arrested in Niger Republic by the Interpol.

He was thereafter remanded at the Kuje Correctional Center, as the court earlier revoked his bail.

Maina is facing trial alongside his firm, Common Input Property and Investment Limited.

EFCC alleged that the former pension reform boss, Maina, used his firm and laundered over N2billion, part of which he used to acquire landed properties in Abuja.

The court had on July 16, closed Maina’s defence, after he failed to produce his second witness to testify on his behalf.

However, his lawyer, Mr. Anayo Adibe, re-approached the court with an application, urging it to vacate the order that forclosed his client’s right of defence, a request the EFCC opposed on Thursday.

Justice Abang adjourned ruling on the application till Friday.

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