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Court jails two Lebanese, orders forfeiture of $ 890,000

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Port Harcourt zonal office on Thursday secured the conviction of Chamseddine Waell Mohammed and Dina Jihad Khali who both pleaded guilty to separate one count charge of money laundering preferred against them.

The offences run contrary to Section 2 (3) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as amended) and punishable under Section 2 (5) of the same Act.

Both defendants were sentenced to two years imprisonment by Justice I. M. Sani of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

The first charge read: “That you Chamseddine Waell Mohammed on the 1st July, 2020 at Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, Port Harcourt within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did fail to make a declaration of the sum of $220,000.00 (Two Hundred and Twenty Thousand US Dollars) hid in your Luggage on board a chartered flight with registration number 9HVFF to Lebanon and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 2 (3) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as Amended) and punishable under section 2 (5) of the same Act”.

The second charge read: “That you Dina Jihad Khali on the 1st July, 2020 at Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, Port Harcourt within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did fail to make a declaration to the Nigeria Custom Service as required by law cash transportation of the sum of $670,000.00 (Six Hundred and Seventy Thousand US Dollars) hid in your Luggage on board a chartered flight with registration number 9HVFF to Lebanon and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 2 (3) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as Amended) and punishable under Section 2 (5) of the same Act”.

The defendants pleaded guilty to the charges.

While reviewing facts of the case, prosecuting counsel, Aso Larrys Peters tendered some documents, which included Letter of Invitation from Customs and statements of the defendants, as exhibits.

Principal Detective Superintendent Macaulay Olayinka while being led in evidence by prosecution counsel, told the court that, the two convicts were arrested for attempting to smuggle a total sum of $890,000 USD out of Nigeria, through the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa.

“The said amount was found inside their Luggage on board a chartered flight with registration number 9HVFF to Lebanon.

“They were apprehended by the Nigeria Custom Service, Area One Command, Port Harcourt and handed over to the Port Harcourt Zonal office of the EFCC on August 12, 2020 for further investigation.

“The Convicts, Khali with Passport Number LR152975 (Republic of Lebanon) was arrested with $670,000USD while Mohammed with Passport Number LR0356598 (Republic of Lebanon) had in his possession the sum of $220,000USD (Two Hundred and Twenty Thousand Dollars)”, he said.

He further disclosed that the money recovered from the suspects had been deposited with the Central Bank of Nigeria, Rivers State Branch, for safe keeping by the arresting agency.

In view of the reviewed facts, the prosecution prayed the court to convict and sentence the defendants as charged.

However, counsel to the defendants, Paul Ejiga urged the court to temper justice with mercy as the defendants were first time offenders who have no previous criminal record.

Justice Sani consequently convicted and sentenced the defendants to two years imprisonment with an option of fine of N1 million each.

The undeclared amount was ordered forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.



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