Pension Fraud: Court gives ex HoS Chief Accountant three-year jail term
A Federal High Court, yesterday, sentenced the former Chief Accountant, Pension Office of the Office of the Head of Service (HoS) of the Federation, Garba Tahir, to three years imprisonment.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a judgment, held that the prosecution had proved the seven-count charge preferred against Tahir beyond reasonable doubt.
Justice Ekwo, who handed down the three-year jail term in each of the counts, however, ordered that the sentencing, which amounted to 21 years imprisonment, would run concurrently beginning from April 2.
“I find in the end that the prosecution has discharged the burden of proof placed on it by law.
“Consequently, I make an order convicting the defendant as charged. This is the Judgment of this court,” the judge declared
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that Tahir was the Pension Accountant when Mr. Stephen Oronsaye was the HoS between 2009 and 2010.
Oronsaye, who is also facing a N2b money laundering charge before Justice Ekwo, is also awaiting his judgment fixed for April 5. He is being charged, alongside others, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on 27 counts.
NAN also reported that a former director of defunct Pension Reform Task Team in the office of the HoS then, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina, was, on Nov. 8, 2021, convicted and sentenced to eight-year imprisonment for N2b pension fraud.
Meanwhile, delivering the judgment, the judge said in the case, it was clear that the allegations of money laundering were premised on the conversion of resources derived directly or indirectly from illegal act.
“In this case, the aim of the conversion is either to conceal or disguise the illicit origin of the resources or property,.
“Therefore once, the actus reus is established, it would form the basis for conclusion on the existence of the mens rea.
“The ageless issue in establishing mens rea, is that a physical surgery to open the heart of an accused to see his intention is impracticable.
“It is therefore established where there is admission on the part of the accused or inferred from the evidence constituting the actus reus.
“In this case, I have to agree with the prosecution that the facts of conversion have been consistent in each and every count in being emphatic about the undisclosed origin of the transaction or payment.
“This has given rise to the several cash lodgements into the private bank account of the defendant either in person or by using proxies thereby leading to the conclusion that there is intention to conceal the illicit origin of the cash in question.
“This is what I found in this case. I find that the prosecution has proved the case against the defendant beyond reasonable doubt,” Justice Ekwo said.
He said Tahir merely denied the allegations without any concrete evidence to rebut the case of the prosecution.
He further said that Tahir failed to show even by a shred of evidence that he utilised any of the money paid to him by the office of the HoS through his private bank for any official duty for which the payments were made.
“In fact, the defendant was very condescending and rather impetuous in the manner he responded to the questions during cross-examination.
“Being a lawyer and an accountant, I expected the defendant to understand the implication of what he was doing in the witness box and the enormity of the allegations in the charge against him but he did not.
“He left the case of the prosecution unchallenged,” he added.
NAN reports that, in the seven counts, Tahir was accused of diverting over N26m through his ECOBANK account, using Charo Bureau De Change Ltd, among others.
He, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge.
The EFCC, in proving its case, called five witnesses, among whom was Mr. Charles Bonat, former Permanent Secretary, Establishment and Records Department in the office of the HoS then.