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The Federal High Court sitting in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, on Thursday, sentenced the governorship candidate of the Young Progressives Party, Senator Bassey Albert, to 42 years imprisonment for money laundering .
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had dragged Albert, who represents Akwa Ibom North-East Senatorial District before the court on allegation of receiving vehicle valued at N204 million as bribe from some companies.
The companies were linked to one Olajide Omokore, a contractor who executed a N3 billion contract for the Akwa Ibom State Government when he was Commissioner for Finance and Chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Coordinating Committee.
The offence contravenes Section 15 (2) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and is punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.
One of the charges against the senator read: “That you, Albert Bassey, whilst being the Commissioner for Finance, Akwa Ibom State and Chairman of Akwa Ibom State Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Coordinating Committee, IMDLCC sometime in December 2012, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, indirectly took possession of a vehicle (Infinity QX 56 BP) valued at N45,000,000.00 at the instance of one Olajide Jones Omokore (whose companies had contracts with Akwa Ibom State Government at that material time), when you reasonably ought to have known that the said vehicle formed part of proceed of unlawful activity (to wit: corruption) and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15 (2) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.”
Upon arraignment, the senator pleaded not guilty to the charges setting the stage for his full trial. In the course of trial EFCC called several witnesses and tendered documents that were admitted in evidence as exhibits.
Delivering judgement on Thursday, the presiding judge, Justice Agatha Okeke, held that the court was satisfied that the prosecution had proved the case against the defendant beyond reasonable doubt and convicted him as charged.
Justice Okeke sentenced him to seven years imprisonment on each of the six counts.
The judge also ordered the convicted Senator to restitute a total sum of N204m million through the EFCC.
Justice Okeke said the restitution will be the condition for the senator’s release after serving out the jail term.
The convicted senator was a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before he defected months ago to the YPP, where he secured the party’s ticket for the 2023 governorship election in Akwa Ibom State.
One of the witnesses, Ngunan Kakwagh, who is an investigator with the EFCC, had revealed how Olajide Omokore, a contractor, bought vehicles for Senator Albert after receiving N3 billion contracts when he was Commissioner for Finance in Akwa Ibom State.
Kakwagh, informed the court that the anti-graft agency traced about N3 billion payments from the Akwa Ibom State Government and the Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Coordinating Committee, to the accounts of Canwod Dredging Company Limited, Bay Atlantic Limited, Sahel Engineering, Power Nigeria Limited and Network Services Nigeria Limited – all linked to Omokore.
“My team further traced money from Omokore’s company account to the account of Skymit Limited, and when we invited Skymit to tell us the reasons for the money, we were told that it was for the purchase of vehicles.
“So, my investigation revealed that the accused, while he was the Commissioner for Finance and Chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Coordinating Committee, Omokore and his companies received monies from the Akwa Ibom State Government and the IMDLCC.
“Also, Omokore bought cars from Skymit Limited for the accused,” the witness added.
The vehicles include Infinity QX 56 BP, valued at N45million; Toyota Land Cruiser V8 BP, valued at N40million; Range Rover, valued at N40million; Toyota Hiace, High Roof, valued at N27million; Toyota Hiace High Roof, valued at N16million and Toyota Hilux 4×4, valued at N36million.
The court on May 5, 2022, closed the case of the defence following the failure of the lead defence counsel, Kanu Agabi, to continue the trial of the serving senator.
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