…As Tanzania sentences Chinese ‘Ivory Queen’ smuggler to 15 years jail***
A Federal High Court in Lagos was on Tuesday told, that monies paid into the account of a Company, Penniel Engineering Ltd, charged alongside a former Director General of NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi, was meant for intelligence gathering.
A witness, Mr Fredrick Ugor, who is a staff of the Nigerian
Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), indicated this while giving
evidence under cross examination in the ongoing trial of Akpobolokemi and five
others over alleged N3.4 billion fraud.
Other defendants were: Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Felix
Bob-Nabena and a firm, Al-kenzo Ltd.; who were charged on a 22-counts of allegedly
converting N3.4 billion belonging to NIMASA for their personal use.
Each had pleaded not guilty to the charges and were granted
bails. The prosecution has since opened its case and is still leading
The witness (Ugor) had testified before the court on
February 18 how various sums of monies were paid into the account of a company
called Peniel Engineering Ltd by NIMASA’s Committee on intelligence (COI).
Under cross examination on Tuesday by second defence
counsel, Mr Onyeke Edoka, the witness told the court that funds paid into the
account of Peniel Engineering Ltd was meant for intelligence gathering.
Defence asked the witness: “As a witness who works in
NIMASA, do you have anything to tell the court in relation to the charge and
the second defendant?
The witness replied, “I am not in a position to do that”.
Defence then asked the witness if in the payment to Peniel
Ltd, there was any intention to disguise the source of the funds and the
witness replied “I would not know”.
Defence: “Will I be correct to say that when the money came
in, you knew it was from the Committee on Intelligence?
Witness: “No, I knew it was from NIMASA.”
On whether there was any attempt to disguise the source of
the money, the witness again replied that he was not in a position to know.
When defence counsel asked how the witness knew monies were
to be paid, the witness replied, “because my boss told me that some money will
come in for intelligence gathering.”
On whether he received any instructions from the second
defendant to transfer, convert, or remove the funds from the jurisdiction of
the court, the witness replied, “Not at all.”
Defence: “To the best of your knowledge, was the second
defendant a beneficiary to any of the funds paid into the account?
When defence counsel asked the witness if he was informed
that the monies disbursed was for intelligence gathering, the witness replied
in the affirmative.
Defence: “You were informed that the account will be used as
a Special Purpose Vehicle to warehouse funds to be used for security related
Witness replied:”That is what I have in my statement.”
Defence: “Will I be correct to say that you were aware of
the security challenges the maritime sector was facing at the time the money
was paid, such as hijacking, and sea piracy.
Witness replied “Yes”
When defence counsel retorted that in the statement of
account of Peniel with all the entries and exits, non of them relates to the
second defendant, the Witness replied “That is correct.”
Defence: “There was never a time you wrote a letter on
Peniel letter head, requesting for monies to be paid”
Witness replied “No”.
When defence counsel asked if it was stated anywhere that
Peniel was to carry out any security operations or for services in all of
exhibits N1 to N15, the witness replied No.
Defence asked: “From your perspective will I be correct to
say that there was a reduction in security operations at the time these
payments were made”
At this point, the prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, raised
objection on the grounds that the witness was in court to give evidence and not
to express an opinion.
Justice Ayokunle Faji sustained this objection and asked
defence counsel to rephrase his question.
Defence then asked the witness if he was familiar with
maritime security issues in NIMASA between 2014 and 2015 and the witness
replied “I am aware by virtue of my work”.
Defence: “Will I be correct to say that there was a reduction
in these activities between 2014 and 2015”
Witness replied: “There were times we had constant attacks
and other times few, so cannot categorically say that. ”
The court has adjourned until February 28 for continuation
According to the charge, the defendants were said to have
committed the alleged offences between December 2013 and July 2015.
The offences contravened Sections 15 (1), (3), and 18 (a) of
the Money Laundering (Prohibitions) Amendment Act, 2012.
In the meantime, a prominent Chinese businesswoman dubbed
the “Ivory Queen” was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a Tanzanian court on
Tuesday for smuggling the tusks of over 350 elephants, weighing almost 2
tonnes, to Asia.
Yang Feng Glan had been charged in October 2015 along with
two Tanzanian men with smuggling 860 pieces of ivory between 2000 and 2004
worth 13 billion shillings (5.6 million dollars).
However, all three denied the charges.
Police sources said Yang, 69, had lived in Tanzania since
the 1970s and were secretary-general of the Tanzania China-Africa Business
A Swahili-speaker, she also owns a popular Chinese
restaurant in Dar es Salaam.
Kisutu Court Magistrate Huruma Shaidi sentenced Yang,
Salivius Matembo and Manase Philemon, each to 15 years, after they were
convicted of leading an organised criminal gang.
Shaidi ordered them to either pay twice the market value of
the elephant tusks or face another two years in prison.
In court documents, prosecutors said Yang “intentionally did
organise, manage and finance a criminal racket by collecting, transporting or
exporting and selling government trophies” weighing a total of 1.889