By Taiye Agbaje
Mr Garba Tahir, a former chief accountant in the pension office the Office of the Head of Service (HoS) of the Federation was on Friday sentenced to three years imprisonment after he was found guilty of seven count charge of pension fraud.
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja presided over by Justice Inyang Ekwo jailed Tahir after he was found guilty of seven-count charge preferred against him by EFCC.
Justice Tahir who said the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC proved the allegation leveled against the former chief accountant beyond reasonable doubt handed down the three-year jail term in each of the counts.
He, 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 Judgement of this court,” the judge declared
Tahir was the pension accountant when Mr Stephen Oronsaye was the HoS between 2009 and 2010.
While delivering the judgment on Friday, the judge said in the case, it was clear that the allegations of money laundering were premised on 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.
In the seven counts, Tahir was accused of diverting over N26 million 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.
Oronsaye, who is also facing a N2 billion 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.
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 N2 billion pension fraud.