Justice Abubakar Mahmud Talba of the Court of Appeal, Sokoto Division on Friday, 31st March, convicted and sentenced two Chinese nationals, Meng Wei Kun and Mr. Xu Kuai, to three years imprisonment for each of the two count charge for offences of Conspiracy, Money Laundering and attempted Bribery to the tune of N50 Million (Fifty Million Naira) brought against them by the Sokoto Zonal Command of the EFCC.
The judgement is sequel to EFCC’s appeal brought against the judgment of the Federal High Court Sokoto, which discharged and acquitted the accused persons on all the three three count charge.
Delivering the unanimous judgment, Justice Talba berated the respondents that tried to frustrate the appeal through maneuverings stating that, “gone are the days of technicalities in law”. He further emphasized that going forward, courts must allow cases to be heard on its merits.
Justice Talba further explained that the EFCC had proven counts one and two of the three count charge before the Federal High Court beyond reasonable doubt but agreed with the lower Court on count three and accordingly struck it out because a similar charge is pending before the High Court of Justice Sokoto State.
According to Justice Talba, “the respondents are charged with Conspiracy and making a cash payment in excess of the threshold provided by the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 as amended in 2012 to Abdullahi Lawal (then zonal head of EFCC Sokoto) which was established beyond reasonable doubt before the lower Court. But surprisingly, the trial Judge summersaulted in his judgement and recanted”.
Justice Talba added, “I regret to say that the judgment is like a fiction by the trial judge who created doubts in his mind while discharging his responsibilities. Without doubt, the trial judge grossly misconceived that no offence was committed”.
The Judge said further, “conspiracy is a distinct offence even if the commission of the actual offence is aborted, and in the instant case, there exists positive cogent inescapable evidence the offence was committed”.
While he maintained that the appeal is “immensely meritorious”, the judge convicted and sentenced the Chinese nationals to three years on each of the two counts with an option of N10 million fine each on each count.
On a final note, the judge said, “before I draw the curtain, the respondents are Chinese and an offence of this gravity in their home country attracts the death penalty, yet here they are corrupting our country.
“The courts of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will not condone corruption in any way; as President Muhammadu Buhari has said ‘if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria”.