The Federal Government yesterday told the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja how Process and Industrial Developments Limited (P&ID) and its Nigerian affiliate, P&ID Nigeria Limited, defrauded the country and equally evaded tax.
This was just as the Federal Government arraigned the two firms on an 11-count charge bothering on fraud and tax evasion in respect of the contract leading to the recent controversial judgement of a British court empowering the firm to seize $9.6 billion worth of Nigerian assets.
The firms, through their representatives, Mohammed Kuchazi and Adamu Usman, respectively pleaded guilty to the 11-count charge when they were docked.
While Kuchazi was represented by his counsel, Dandison Akurunwua, Usman, who is also a lawyer, represented himself.
The court, however, ordered the forfeiture of all assets and properties to the Federal Government, as well as the winding up (closure) of the two firms.
The order was sequel to the conviction of the two firms.
The defendants were alleged, among others, of fraudulently claiming to have acquired land from the Cross River State Government in 2010 for the gas supply project agreement which led to the $9.6 billion judgement.
The prosecution also alleged that the defendants conspired with certain officials of Nigerian Government to commit felony to wit: dealing in petroleum product without appropriate licence and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and punishable under section 1(17) of the same Act.
The defendants were also alleged of attempt to deal in petroleum products without appropriate licence and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 1(19) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and punishable under section 1(17) of the same Act.
After the defendants pleaded guilty to the charge read to them, the court called on the EFCC investigator, Usman Babangida, to the witness box for review of facts.
This was, however, not opposed to by the defendants.
The investigator tendered documents relating to the controversial 2010 gas supply contract and EFCC’s investigation activities to the court.
The trial judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo subsequently admitted the documents as exhibits.
Also, the defendants did not object to the admissibility.
After reviewing the facts before it, the court pronounced the two firms guilty.
This was followed by an allocutus (plea for mercy) by P&ID’s counsel, Akurunwua.
He pleaded with the court to consider “the forthrightness and candour” of P&ID by pleading guilty and not wasting the time of the court in the trial.
Similarly, the second defendant aligned himself with the submission of counsel to the first defendant.
Prosecution counsel, Bala Sanga, urged the court to deliver its sentencing in line with the provision of the Money Laundering Act which stipulates the winding up of the firm as well as forfeiture of all their assets to the Federal Government.
Delivering judgement, Justice Ekwo held that the firms, having admitted to the crime, he had no option than to convict them accordingly.
Relying on provisions of section 19(2) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011, and section 10(2) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other related offences Act, 2006, the court ordered the Federal Government to wind up the two firms and confiscate all their assets in the country.
“With the facts before the court, and the plea of guilty entered by the defendants, this court is left with no option than to convict the defendants accordingly.
“Relying on Section 29(2) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 and Section 10(2) of the Advanced Fee Fraud and other related offences Act, 2006, the court makes an order of winding up of the defendants’ firms in this matter and also an order of forfeiture of all assets and properties of the defendants to the Federal Government of Nigeria,” Justice Ekwo held.
It will be recalled that a British Commercial Court had, on August 16, awarded judgement in the sum of $9.6 billion against Nigeria over a failed contract between P&ID and the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources in 2010.
The charge reads in part:
*That you, Process and Industrial Developments Limited (Nigeria) being a company Incorporated in the British Virgin Island, Process and Industrial Development (Nigeria) Ltd., Michael Quinn (deceased), Neil Hitchcock (deceased), and Brendan Cahill (at large), on or about the 11th day of January 2010 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this court with intent to defraud, conspired to obtain benefit to wit: petroleum product from the Federal Government of Nigeria by falsely representing to the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Ministry of Petroleum Resources,that Process Development Ltd. was allocated land by the Cross River State Government which representation you know to be false, thereby committing an offence contrary to section 8(a) and punishable under section (1) (3) of the Advanced Fee Fraud and other Offences Act, 2006.
*That you, Process and Industrial Developments Limited, being a company incorporated in the British Virgin Island, Process and Industrial Developments (Nigeria) Limited, Michael Quinn (deceased), Neil Hitchcock (deceased) and Brendan Cahill (at large), on or about the 11th of January, 2010 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, conspired with certain officials of Nigerian Government to commit felony to wit: dealing in petroleum product without appropriate licence and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and punishable under section 1(17) of the same Act.
*That you, Process and Industrial Development Limited, being a company incorporated in the British Virgin Island, Process and Industrial Developments (Nigeria) Limited, Michael Quinn (deceased), Neil Hitchcock (deceased) and Brendan Cahill (at large) between August 2006 and August, 2010 at Abuja within the Abuja Judicial Division of the Federal High Court, conspired amongst yourselves to launder proceeds of unlawful act to wit: tax evasion and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 18 and punishable section 15(2)(b)(3) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended by Act No.1 of 2012).”
In count seven, they were accused to have, between August 2006 and December 2006, concealed the unlawful origin of the sum of N1,856,503.50 through the Guaranty Trust Bank Plc Account No: 3223250230110 operated by Process and Industrial Developments (Nigeria) Limited, when you reasonably ought to have known that the said fund formed part of the proceeds of your unlawful act to wit: tax evasion and you, thereby, committed an offence contrary to section 15(2)(a) and punishable under section 15(3) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition Act, 2011 as amended by Act No: 1 of 2012).
In count eight, the prosecution accused the defendants of concealing the sum of N3,923,237.65 and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 15(2)(a) and punishable under section 15(3) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition Act, 2011 (as amended by Act No: 1 of 2012.
In count nine, the defendants were said to have concealed the sum of N2,290, 472.50 and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 15(2)(a) and punishable under section 15(3) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 (as amended) by Act No: 1 of 2012.
In count 10, the defendants were accused of concealing the sum of N1,414, 955.50, thereby committing an offence contrary to section 15(2)(a) and punishable under section 15(3) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 (as amended) by Act No: 1 of 2012.
Following a British court ruling that Nigeria owed the Irish firm about $9.6 billion for violating terms of the contract, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) commenced an investigation into the contract between Nigeria and P&ID.
The contract for gas supply and processing (GSPA) was signed by the administration of late President Umaru Yar’Adua and P&ID.
The company was to build gas processing facilities around Calabar, Cross River State and the government was to supply wet gas up to 400 million standard cubic feet per day.
Bayelsa guber: Two policemen killed as Force deploys 15 CPs, three AIGs
Two Policemen were on Tuesday shot dead in the Otuogidi community of Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayesla State and their rifles carted away by unknown gunmen suspected to be hoodlums hired to search for guns ahead of Saturday’s governorship election causing apprehension among residents.
The killings coincided with the arrival of some the 32,000 policemen sent for the exercise led by 15 Commissioners of Police, three Assistant Inspectors Generals (AIG) and Deputy Inspectors General of Police (DIG) at the state headquarters of Police Command for onward deployment to every part of the state.
However, the murder of the policemen, the DIG of Police for Bayelsa Election, Anthony Ogbizi, assured the people of the state of their safety and promised that the security personnel deployed to the state will ensure that there is a level playing ground for the INEC to conduct a free, fair and credible election.
Also speaking, Police Commissioner, Omololu Shamusideen Bishi told newsmen that the officers and men have been deployed from the Nigerian Police headquarters, Abuja to interact with the Divisional Police Officers in the state, the rank and file in the state command and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), calling on the media to assist in the area of balanced and credible coverage of the governorship poll.
He called on the people to come out en masse to cast their votes for whichever candidate of their choice in Saturday’s election and go home peaceful to wait for the outcome of the poll.
NDLEA arrest policeman, trafficker, for supplying drugs to ‘Boko-Haram’ insurgents in Borno
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in Yobe, said it had arrested a policeman and a drug trafficker (names withheld) for allegedly conniving and supplying 59kg of prohibited Tramadol tablets to Boko Haram insurgents in Gwoza, Borno.
Mr Reuben Apeh, the NDLEA state Commander, while addressing newsmen in Damaturu, said that the suspects were arrested on November 7.
Apeh said the drug trafficker had confessed buying the prohibited substance from an unnamed customs officer in Lagos.
“He confessed hiring the policeman to convey the drugs to Maiduguri before proceeding to Gwoza to supply suspected terrorists.
“He claimed that the drugs were part of consignments seized by the Nigeria customs during its operations in Lagos, and were sold to him at the cost of N6 million, while the actual market value stands at N24 million.
“We are still working on him to provide us with the details of the alleged customs officer and another accomplice he claimed was based in Ijora, Lagos.
“The drugs were transported from Lagos to Jos, and handed over to the policeman for delivery to Maiduguri, where he (trafficker) will take it to suspected terrorists in Gwoza,” Apeh said.
He said that the suspects would soon be charged to court with the exhibits.
The Commander appealed to other stakeholders and the public, to collaborate with the agency in curbing the menace of drug trafficking and consumption.
Apeh also commended his personnel for their incorruptible stand and firm dedication to duty, saying “you have done the command and the agency proud”.
US Supreme Court clears way for shooting victim families to sue gun-maker
The US Supreme Court has cleared the way for families of Newtown, Connecticut, shooting victims to sue gun-maker Remington Arms Co. — the manufacturer of the AR-15 used in the 2012 massacre — rejecting the company’s request for the court to consider the case.
The case will now proceed to trial in Connecticut for the families of the victims of the shooting, which took place in December 2012 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Twenty children and six adults were killed at the school, reports ABC News.
The justices did not offer an explanation for their decision to deny the request to take up the case.
Alleged N16.4m fraud: Court discharges ex-IGP Ehindero
An FCT High Court in Apo has discharged a former Inspector-General of Police, Sunday Ehindero, who was charged with alleged diversion of N16.4million.
The trial judge, Justice Silvanus Oriji, also discharged Ehindero’s co-defendant, a former Commissioner of Police in charge of Budget at the Force Headquarters, John Obaniyi, of the 10-count charge filed against them by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC).
The ICPC had alleged that the defendants conspired and used their positions to pay N500 million in two fixed deposit accounts with Wema Bank and Intercontinental Bank from the N557.9m donated by the Bayelsa Government to the Nigeria Police for purchase of arms and ammunition.
The anti-corruption commission further alleged that the N500 million placed in fixed deposits yielded an interest of N16.4million which was allegedly diverted by the defendants. They, however, pleaded not guilty.
Following the closing of the case of the prosecution on May 8 after calling four witnesses, the defendants filed a no-case submission, urging the court to discharge them.
Ruling on the submission on Tuesday, Justice Oriji held that the prosecution failed to establish a prima facie case against the defendants which would have warranted the court to call on them (defendants) to open their defence.
He held that the prosecution had failed to prove that the defendants converted the said interest generated to their personal use.
The judge further held that the investigation officer did not discredit the claim of the defendants to prove that the money was not used for operational purposes.
“I, therefore, uphold the no-case submission. The defendants are hereby discharged,” he held.
JUST IN: Senate proposes bill to establish agency for hate speech
The Senate has introduced a bill which seeks to establish a federal government agency to check hate speech in the country.
The bill, sponsored by a former Senate spokesperson, who is now the Deputy Senate Whip, Sabi Abdullahi, passed first reading on the floor of the red chamber on Tuesday.
It is titled, “National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches (Earn, etc) Bill 2019″.
A similar bill sponsored by Abdullahi in the 8th Senate prescribed among others, death by hanging for anyone found guilty of the offence.
Former Bolivian president Morales heads to Mexico for asylum
Bolivia’s former president, Evo Morales, was flying to Mexico on Tuesday after fleeing his South American homeland, seeking refuge under a leftist government that has supported the veteran socialist in the wake of a disputed election.
Bolivia’s first indigenous president came under Mexico’s protection after he departed Bolivia late on Monday on a Mexican Air Force jet, Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said.
“His life and integrity are safe,” Ebrard wrote on Twitter, after warning Morales was in danger and saying Mexico would offer asylum as part of its long tradition of sheltering exiles, reports Reuters.
The Mexican government’s support has helped cement its emerging role as a bastion of diplomatic support for left-wing leaders in Latin America.
Morales, who governed for 14 years, said on Twitter he was thankful to Mexico but saddened to leave Bolivia for political reasons, following weeks of violent protests and unrest.
In a photo tweeted by Ebrard, Morales is seated alone on the jet with a downcast, unsmiling expression, displaying Mexico’s red, white and green flag across his lap.
Morales’ government collapsed on Sunday after ruling party allies quit and the army urged him to step down, a tactic that Mexico’s government said it views as a “coup” because it broke with Bolivia’s constitutional order.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador praised Morales for the decision to resign rather than put the lives of Bolivians at risk.
His departure added to a sense of crisis in Latin America, which has been hit by weeks of unrest in countries such as Ecuador and Chile, where protesters are urging governments to step back from policies raising fuel and transport prices.
Afghan president: 3 Taliban released for abducted US, Australian profs
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says his government has released three Taliban figures in effort to have the insurgents free an American and an Australian professor they abducted in 2017.
Ghani said at a press event broadcast live on state television on Tuesday that the release of the three prominent insurgents was very hard decision he had to make in the interest of the Afghan people, reports The Associated Press (AP).
He said that the three members of the Taliban-linked Haqqani network include Anas Haqqani, Haji Mali Khan and Hafiz Rashid, and that they are being released “conditionally in exchange” for the two professors. He did not elaborate.
The two men — an American identified as Kevin King and an Australian man identified as Timothy Weekes — were abducted outside the American University in Kabul.
Israeli forces kill top Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza strike
Israel killed a top commander for Iranian-backed Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad in a rare targeted strike in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, accusing him of carrying out a series of cross-border attacks and planning more.
The slaying of Baha Abu Al-Atta in his home looked likely to pose a new challenge for Gaza’s ruling Hamas faction, which has mostly tried to maintain a truce with Israel since a 2014 war.
At least one other person, a woman, was also killed in the blast that ripped through the building in Gaza City’s Shejaia district before dawn, medics said. Two others were wounded.
Shortly after, Palestinian militants launched a salvo of rockets into Israel, witnesses said. There was no immediate word of casualties or damage on the other side. Israeli police said they closed some roads on the edge of Gaza as a precaution, reports Reuters.
In a statement, the Israeli military said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had authorized the operation against Al-Atta, blaming him for recent rocket, drone and sniper attacks against Israel, and attempted infiltrations into the country.
“Abu Al-Atta was responsible for most of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s activity in the Gaza Strip and was a ticking bomb,” the statement said, accusing Al-Atta of planning “imminent terror attacks through various means”.
An Islamic Jihad statement confirmed the death of Al-Atta, who it said had been in the midst of “heroic jihadist action”.
“Our inevitable retaliation will rock the Zionist entity,” the statement said, referring to Israel.
Islamic Jihad shares Hamas’s ideological commitment to Israel’s destruction. But unlike Hamas, it is has often chafed at Egyptian-led efforts to forge ceasefires with the Israelis.
Israeli analysts have said Iran has been cultivating Islamic Jihad as a Gaza-based proxy as part of Tehran’s widening regional confrontation against Israel.
At least 15 killed, 58 injured as trains collide head-on
At least 15 people were killed and 58 others injured when two trains collided in Brahmanbaria district in eastern Bangladesh early on Tuesday, police said.
Three coaches were sent tumbling off the tracks at Mondolbhag station in the town of Kasba when a Dhaka-bound intercity train and a locomotive bound for Chittagong collided.
“At least 15 people have been killed. And another 58 were injured. We have sent the injured to different hospitals in the region,” district police chief Anisur Rahman told AFP news agency.
Rahman told Anadolu Agency that the death toll might rise as some passengers were still reportedly trapped under the affected coaches.
Train services between the capital Dhaka and two other important cities – Sylhet and Chittagong – have been suspended.
The circumstances surrounding the accident were under investigation, a railway official told reporters.
“We are still conducting a rescue operation,” he said, adding that faulty signalling could have been to blame.
Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed their condolences over the deaths, reports al-Jazeera.
Train accidents are common in Bangladesh and are often caused by poor signalling or other rundown infrastructure.
Ex US President Jimmy Carter admitted to hospital for brain surgery
Former President Jimmy Carter was hospitalized on Monday for a procedure to relieve pressure on his brain, caused by bleeding due to his recent falls, a spokesperson said.
Carter, the oldest living ex-U.S. president, was admitted to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta on Monday evening ahead of the procedure, which is scheduled to take place Tuesday morning, reports ABC News.
A spokesperson for the family said he was “resting comfortably, and his wife, Rosalynn, is with him.”
Carter, 95, was recently hospitalized after fracturing his pelvis on October 21. — the most recent of three falls this year.
Carter had to get stitches above his brow after falling at his ranch house in rural Plains, Georgia, on October 6. And in May, he underwent surgery after falling and breaking his hip while he was leaving to go turkey hunting.
The nation’s 39th president made headlines earlier this month when he opened up about being “at ease with death” during a Sunday school service near his home in Georgia.
“I assumed naturally that I was going to die very quickly,” said Carter, referring to his cancer diagnosis in 2015. “I said a prayer about it; I didn’t ask God to let me live, I found that I was absolutely and completely at ease with death.”
During Sunday’s service he said his only concern about dying was missing his family and loved ones, but said that he realized, as a Christian, he would see them again.
Carter was elected president in 1976, defeating Republican Gerald Ford, but served just one term before his loss to Ronald Reagan in 1980. Since his presidency, he’s dedicated himself to charitable causes, such as Habitat for Humanity.
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