A Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, Tuesday, convicted two illegal gold dealers, Bukar Mandara Zarami, Managing Director, Bukar Mandara Zarami Limited, and Kar Nap Fenan Wuyep by Justice Muslim S. Hassan.
The convicts alongside a company, Bukar Mandara Zarami Limited, were re-arraigned Tuesday on an amended two-count charge bordering on possession of 35.58 kilogrammes of gold bars wrapped in six bags without appropriate permit.
Count one reads: “That you, Bukar Mandara Zarami, on or about the 9th day of November, 2018 in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, dealt in 35.58 kilogrammes of gold bars wrapped in six bags without appropriate permit; and you, therefore, committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 134(c) of the Nigerian Mineral and Mining Act, 2007.”
“Count two reads: “That you, “Kar Nap Fenan Wuyep, on or about the 22nd day of May, 2018 in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court , without going through any financial institution, accepted cash payment of the sum of $19,440(Nineteen Thousand , Four Hundred and Forty United States Dollars), from one Bakkkuk Steven Goyol, which sum exceeded the amount authorized by the Law; and, you hereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1)(a), Section 16(1) (d) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 as Amended and punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.”
The defendants pleaded guilty to the charge preferred against them.
In view of their plea, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, sought the leave of the court to review the facts of the case.
Oyedepo informed the court that the first defendant, Zarami, was arrested at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos on November 11, 2018 with 35.58 kilogrammes of gold bars wrapped in six bags.
He further stated that: “He was brought to the Lagos Zonal office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, where the gold bars were measured and counted in the presence of the first defendant, his counsel, a representative from the Ministry of Mines and Steel. All parties present signed the measurements document.”
The prosecution sought to tender in evidence the signed measurement document and the first defendant’s boarding pass.
Both the document and the boarding pass of the first defendant were admitted in evidence as exhibits P1 and P2.
The prosecution counsel further told the court that investigations revealed that the first and second defendants did not have the appropriate permit to possess or deal in 35.58kg of gold.
Oyedepo also told the court that, though the first defendant, in his statement to the EFCC, stated that he gave an official of the Ministry, Steven Bakkuk, about N3m as royalty. However, this is against N6.77m actual royalty he was to pay.
Oyedepo said: “This shows clearly that there was no appropriate permit for that quantity of Gold Bars.
“Investigation further revealed that instead of the official from the Ministry, who received the money from the first defendant, to put the funds in the treasury, he transferred the sum of N700,000 to the third defendant, who is a Director in the Ministry of Mines and Steel.
“This led to further investigation into the account of Bakkuk, whose account was used for transfers of unlawful enrichment.
“It was discovered that about N28m in tranches was sent to the third defendant.
“On May 22, 2018, the sum of $19,440 in cash was given to the third defendant, which is in excess of the amount authorized by Law to be received in cash and it constitutes an offence against Money Laundering Act 2011.”
The prosecution sought to tender the statement of account of Bakkuk in United Bank for Africa, UBA, and the statements of both the first and third defendants.
The documents were admitted in evidence as exhibits P3, P4 and P5, respectively.
The prosecution counsel also informed the court that the defendants had entered a plea bargain with the prosecution, saying, “The first defendant has issued a cheque of N3m in favour of the Federal Government as one of the terms agreed upon in the plea bargain.
“The first defendant, as part of the plea bargain, also agreed to forfeit the undeclared 5.5 kilogrammes of gold bars to the Federal Government.
“It was also agreed that the EFCC, in conjunction with the Deputy Chief Registrar of this Honorable Court, would facilitate the sale of the forfeited gold bars and the proceeds will be remitted into the Consolidated Revenue Funds Account of the Federal Government of Nigeria.”
“Third defendant, in the plea bargain, agreed to pay a fine of N10m and forfeit the recovered Access Bank drafts to the tune of N36m.
In view of their guilty plea, the prosecution counsel, Oyedepo, urged the court to convict the defendants on the amended charge and prayed the court to sentence them to the terms agreed in the plea bargain.
Justice Hassan, while considering the terms of the plea bargain, convicted the defendants and further held that “the plea bargain is made the judgment of the court.”