The Economuc and Financiak Crines Commission (EFCC), on Monday arraigned suspected Internet fraudster, Ismaila Mustapha, alias Mompha at the Federal High Court in Lagos.
The court ordered his remanded in prison custody, after taking his plea.
Justice Mohammed Liman ordered the remand after he was docked on 14 counts bordering on fraud, money laundering and running a foreign exchange business without the authorisation of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
In the charges against him, the EFCC alleged that Mompha procured one Ismalob Global Investment Limited and retained in its bank account an aggregate of N32.9bn between 2015 and 2018.
The EFCC said Mompha “ought to have reasonably known that the money formed part of proceeds of unlawful act, to wit: fraud.”
Among other things, the Internet celebrity was also accused of negotiating foreign exchange transactions of various sums with various persons when he was not an authorised seller appointed by the CBN.
The prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, said Mompha acted contrary to sections 5 and 29(1)(c) of the Foreign Exchange Monitoring and Miscellaneous (Provision) Act Cap F34 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and he was liable to be punished under Section 29(2) of the same Act.
When the charges were read to him, however, Mompha pleaded ‘not guilty.’
While praying for a date for commencement of trial, the prosecution urged Justice Liman to order that the defendant be remanded in the prison custody.
The defence counsel, Gboyega Oyewole (SAN), said he was not opposed to the application for trial date, but said he had already filed a bail application for his client and had also served same on the prosecution.
The prosecution confirmed that it had been served with the bail application but said it required time to read and respond to it.
Justice Liman adjourned till Friday, November 29, to take arguments on the bail application and for trial to commence.
Meanwhile, the prosecution applied that the judge issue summonses on some of its listed witnesses, including the Director of Trade and Exchange Department at the CBN, Ahmed Umar; and Enu Matthew of the Special Control Unit Against Money Laundering, Ministry of Trade, among others.
The anti graft body arrested Mompha, while bordeing a flight from Lagos to Dubai on Oct. 22.
Mompha has a habit of flaunting his wealth and bling acquisitions on social media platforms, especially on Instagram.
The EFCC said then: “Lagos office, has arrested a renowned social media celebrity, Ismaila Mustapha popularly known as Mompha for an alleged involvement in internet related fraud and money laundering,” the anti-graft agency announced on its Twitter page.
“The suspect, a premium and first class customer of one of the popular international airlines, was arrested on Friday, 18 October 2019 at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja on his way to Dubai Emirate following series of intelligence reports received by the commission.
“Actionable cross border intelligence received from collaborative law enforcement agencies about his alleged involvement in criminal activities, further strengthened our suspicion.
“Ismaila who allegedly perpetrates his fraudulent activities under the guise of being a Bureau de Change operator is always seen with his little son flaunting huge amount of foreign currencies on his social media platforms.
“Investigations have also revealed that Ismaila is only using the BDC business he jointly owns with his siblings, as a decoy to launder his proceeds of crime.
“However, the suspect has volunteered useful information to the operatives and has admitted to be reasonably involved in the first two cases he was alleged to be involved in.
“At the point of arrest, five wristwatches with a total worth of over twenty million naira (N20, 000, 000: 00) were recovered from him.
“The suspects will soon be charged to court as soon as investigation is concluded,” the EFCC added.
The EFCC has been working with the international police for months to rein in Mompha.
The EFCC has also been collaborating with the FBI and other international law enforcement agencies on a slew of internet fraud suspects of Nigerian descent across the globe.