Court rejects EFCC plea bargain with INEC official

by Dolapo Adelana

A Federal High Court in Lagos has rejected the offer of N500,000 fine made by an official of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Mr. Christian Nwosu.

Nwosu, who was convicted of taking N30m bribe to compromise the 2015 general elections reached a plea bargain agreement with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Delivering his ruling on Thursday, Justice Mohammed Idris held that the N500,000 fine agreed between Nwosu and the anti-graft agency was far too low compared to the punishment prescribed for money laundering.

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According to the judge, Section 16(2)(b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, under which Nwosu was charged, prescribed a minimum of two years imprisonment or a fine of N10m for anyone convicted under the Act.

He said he could not, therefore, endorse the N500,000 fine agreed between Nwosu and the EFCC because the amount was at variance with the provision of the law.

Justice Idris held, “I have read carefully the plea bargain agreement and I have reviewed the content of same. By Section 270 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, a plea bargain agreement is allowed as in this case, wherein the first defendant has provided relevant information to aid the prosecution of this case…it appears to me that by the above provisions of the ACJA, under a plea bargain agreement, the appropriate sentence to be recommended should be within the appropriate range of punishment stipulated for the offence charged.

“The first defendant was found guilty of an offence contrary to sections 1(a) and 16(b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Amended Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.

“Section 16(2)(b) of the Act provides as follows: A person who commits an offence under Section subsection 1 paragraph A is liable, on conviction, to imprisonment or a prison term not less than two years or a fine of not less than N10m…The provisions of Section 16(2)(b) is clear and unambiguous…It is for the above reason that I find the proposal in paragraph of the plea bargain agreement, filed on 5th April 2017, inadequate.”

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