Law

Internet scam: Lebanese forfeits N100m, SUV, other valuables to FG

Justice Tijjani Ringim of a Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered that the sum of N100 million, a luxury Mercedes Benz GLE43 SUV with Chassis Number: HJGEDGEBXHA063213, two iPhones and a HP Desktop computer, belonging to a Lebanese, Hamza Koudeih, be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.

 

The order was sequel to the court’s sanctioning of a plea bargain arrangement between the Lebanese and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

 

The anti-graft agency had sometimes in November 2019 arraigned Koudeih alongside a Nigerian, Kayode Philip, alias Voice of the King, on a 25-count charge of alleged laundering of the sums of $7.06 million, £1 million and €80,000 before Justice Sule Hassan of a Federal High Court in Lagos.

 

In the charge, Philip and Koudeih were alleged to have knowingly engaged in computer phishing and spamming which resulted in acquiring sensitive information” from various emails.

 

The duo were accused of illegally attempting to retain the sums of $6 million and £1 million in the Bank of China. EFCC alleged that they were found in possession of electronic spamming tools such as MailListFetcher.exe;Tunnelier. exe; spamassassin.exe; Fast Email Extractor.exe; and AtomicMailSender.exe.

 

Philip was also alleged to have illegally take custody of various credit cards issued by JP Morgan Chase; Chase Bank of the United States of America; American Express; and Wells Fargo.

 

He was also said to have illegally procured Dakota Entertainment Limited and Influx Computer and Hardware Limited, for N11 million and N19.25 million respectively.

 

Philip was also alleged to have unlawfully retained the sum of N30.3 million in two bank accounts belonging to Influx Computer and Hardware Limited and DAKOTA Entertainment Limited.

 

The EFCC said the funds were proceeds of unlawful activities. The alleged offences were said to have contravened the provisions of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2015; as well as Section 27(1)(b) of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act 2015.

 

However, after securing his bail, Koudeih tried unsuccessfully to obtain leave of the court to return to his country to see his psychiatrist.

 

He then approached the EFCC and indicated his intention to change his plea.

 

The Lebanese consequently struck a deal with the antigraft agency to own up to the offence of phishing in exchange for a less severe sentence. Presenting the terms of the plea bargain arrangement before Justice Ringim, EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, said it was pursuant to Section 270 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015.

 

He added that as part of the deal, Koudeih entered into a bond with the EFCC “to be of good behaviour and never to be involved in any form of economic and financial crimes both within and outside the shores of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.

 

Upholding the plea bargain terms, Justice Ringim held: “I have listened to the submission of the prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, on the plea bargain agreement between the 2nd defendant and the commission. The same agreement is hereby entered as judgement of this court.

 

“The sum of N100 million, a white coloured Mercedes Benz GLE43 and HP Laptop are hereby forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria. This is judgement of this court”.

 

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