The Sokoto Division of the Court of Appeal Friday sentenced two Chinese nationals to six years imprisonment on two of a three count charge bordering on conspiracy, money laundering and attempted bribery to the tune of N50m brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The convicts are Mr. Meng Wei Kun and Mr. Xu Kuai.
Count one reads, “That you Mr. Meng Wei Kun adult, male, and Mr. Xu Kuai adult, male, on or about the 11th day of May, 2020 in Sokoto within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court (Federal High Court) did conspire amongst yourselves to commit an offence to wit: making cash payment of the sum of Fifty Million Naira (N50,000,000.00) which sum exceed the amount authorised by Law without going through a financial institution and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 as amended in 2012, and punishable under Section 16(2) (b) of the same Act”.
Count two reads, “That you ,Mr. Meng Wei Kun, adult, male and Mr Xu Kuai adult, male on the 11th day of May 2020 at about 2200hrs at Kasarawa Area, Airport road Sokoto State within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court (Federal High Court) without going through a financial institution made a cash payment of the sum of Fifty Million Naira (N50,000,000.00) to one Abdullahi Lawal the then Zonal Head of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Sokoto which exceeded the Five Million Naira (N5,000,000.00) for the purpose of compromising an ongoing investigation involving the company China Zhongao Nigeria Ltd and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1(a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 as amended in 2012 and punishable under Section 16 (2) (b) of the same Act.”
In a unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Abubakar Mahmud Talba on the appeal of the EFCC against the judgment of a Federal High Court, Sokoto, which discharged and acquitted the respondents, the appellate court found the respondents guilty of counts one and two.
The court further sentenced the duo to three years imprisonment each of the counts, with an option of N10m fine on each count.
Justice Talba held that the EFCC had proved counts one and two of the charge before the Federal High Court beyond reasonable doubt but agreed with the lower Court on count three and accordingly struck it out on the grounds that a similar charge was pending before the Sokoto High Court.
Justice Talba said, “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.
“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.
“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.”
He concluded by saying that, “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 the President Muhammadu Buhari has said “if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.”