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Court Jails Bizman For 27 Years For Drug Trafficking, Money Laundering

Justice Ambrose Lewis-Allagoa of the Federal High Court in Lagos has convicted and sentenced an Oman-based Nigerian businessman, Tochukwu Ugwunze, to a total of 27 years imprisonment for trafficking in 7.50 Kilograms of Indian hemp money laundering and other drug-related offences.

Justice Lewis-Allagoa jailed Ugwunze after he pleaded guilty to a nine-count charge brought against him by the anti-narcotic agency, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).

The convict was first arraigned on December 5, 2023, on a five count-charge of conspiracy, unlawful possession and unlawful exportation of the prohibited ‘weed’.

At the time, he pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The convict, however, changed his plea when he was re-arraigned on January 19, 2024, by pleading guilty to all the five count charges.

The court then adjourned the matter for a review of the facts of the case.

During the case review on June 5, 2024, the prosecutor, Julian Iroabuchi, informed the court about a new development. He stated that there was an amended charge against the convict and requested the court’s permission to read the latest charge to the convict so he could enter his plea.

The defence counsel, Dennis Warri, vehemently objected to the request, but his objection was turned down by the judge, who ordered that the amended charge be read to the convict for his plea to be taken.

The new nine-count charge contained allegations of conspiracy, unlawful export, illegal dealing in the banned substance, non-disclosure of assets, failure to fill out an assets form and money laundering.

The prosecutor claimed that the convict committed the offences on September 12, 2023, with one Ifeanyi, who resides in Muscat, Oman, whom he refused to give his full name.

He was also said to have withdrawn monies through POS from his accounts domiciled in Access Bank and GTB Plc while in the NDLEA’s detention facility.

The convict’s criminal acts contravened sections 11 (b), 11 (c), 14 (b), 35 (3) (c) of the NDLEA Act Cap. N30, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, and sections 18(3) and 18(2)(a) of the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act 2022.

Again, the convict pleaded guilty to all nine counts. The matter was then adjourned to June 6, 2024, to review the amended charge.

On June 6, the prosecutor, in her effort to prove the case, especially the money laundering charges, called a lone witness, Mrs Angela Mba, who told the court how the convict was arrested with the prohibited substances.

Mba told the court that the convict concealed the Drugs in a black nylon bag containing crayfish and bitter leaves at the Murtala Muhammad International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos.

The witness also told the court how the convict withdrew about N2.5 million from his account through POS through one of his friends while he was in detention.

The witness narrated to the court how the convict told her during interrogation that he gave his credit card to his friend and authorised him to withdraw the money for him.

Mba also tendered 18 exhibits, including the bulk of the exhibit, his international passport, airline ticket, confessional statements, and Certified True Copies (CTC) of his statement of accounts from Access and GTB banks, all admitted as exhibits by the court.

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