A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos presided over by Justice C.J. Nweke, on Tuesday, ordered that bulk cash courier, Mr. Abubakar Tijjani forfeit 25 percent of the undeclared $2.549.444 (Two million, Five Hundred and Forty Nine Thousand, Four Hundred and Forty Four United States Dollars) to the government.
According to a signed statement by Ag. Head, Media and Publicity, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, Mr. Tijjani, a suspected bulk cash smuggler had been arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC for carrying over $7million at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos en route to Dubai , United Arab Emirates .
The convict did not declared to the security agencies the actual amount before he was arrested by operatives of the anti graft agency.
When the count was read to him, Mr. Tijjani pleaded guilty to the charge.
The one count charge against Tijani reads “That you Abubakar Tijjani Sherrif on or about the 27th of September 2012 at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Lagos, within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court while transporting in cash the sum of $7,049,444.00( seven million and forty nine thousand four hundred and forty four US Dollars) only from Nigeria to Dubai, United Arab Emirate falsely declared to the Nigerian Customs Service the sum of $4.500.000 only instead of the said sum of $7,049,444.00( seven million and forty nine thousand four hundred and forty four US Dollars) only as required under Section 12 of the Foreign Exchange( Monitoring and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act Cap. F34 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and Section 2(5) of the Money Laundering Prohibited Act 2011”.
He said Mr. Tijjani was arrested after passing through a custom’s check where he declared less than the amount he was carrying. According to him, the accused person declared only the sum of $4.5million on the Customs Currency Declaration Form as against the $7,049,444.00 in his possession. Mr. Yusuf further said that Mr. Tijjani was put through further check which led to the discovery of the remaining sum of $2,549,444 hidden in his bag.
Mr. Yusuf presented all the evidences to buttress his position before the court which were immediately accepted as Exhibits. Part of the documents tendered were: the Customs Declaration Form “A” and “B”, an International Passport with passport number A000943575, air ticket and boarding pass for the Emirate flight, Tijjani’s UAE’s Visa and statements made to the EFCC. Others are the Safe Custody Acceptance and Return forms from GTBank, Custom Incident Report signed by one J. A Udie and the statements of the EFCC Operatives, Adaora Oragudochi and Orgi Chukwuma, who were present when he was arrested.
“My Lord since the accused person has pleaded guilty, I urge this court to accept the fact of the case and proceed with conviction,” he submitted.
Counsel to the accused person, Mr. Ogundare Obafemi, told the court that his client had no record of conviction and pleaded with the court to tamper justice with mercy. He said the money involved belonged to a group of people numbering twenty, who are business persons.
He said they always buy goods in bulk from Dubai so as to bring down market price and make profits. Obafemi said Section 12 of the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act Cap. F34 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 only specified that such declarations are for statistical reasons and no punishment was stipulated for offenders.
He said the new Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 which said a percentage of the undisclosed fund shall be forfeited is not known by a number of people because no enlightenment has been carried out on the need to declare funds based on the amended Act. He pleaded for mercy and leniency and prayed the court to limit conviction to forfeiture.
Mr. Yusuf however objected. He said ignorance of the Law had no basis before the court. He urged the court to give a proper conviction so as to serve as a deterrent to other people who may engage in the illegal act.
After listening to arguments from both counsels, Justice Aneke convicted the accused person.
He said since the accused person had pleaded guilty, it showed he has taken full responsibility of the crime committed. He said he will not hand the convict any jail term but that the convict should serve as deterrent that should guard him against committing such an act in future.
He upheld the defence counsel’s plea for mercy and asked the convict to forfeit 25 percent of the undeclared sum to the Federal Government.