N80m Fraud: Former High Court Registrar sentenced to four-year imprisonment

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A Federal High Court, sitting in Kaduna and presided over by Hon. Justice P. H. Mallong, has sentenced a former Registrar of the Court, Mr Joseph Etefia Udoh to four years imprisonment for laundering the sum of N80 million.

Mr Udoh and his wife, Grace Udoh, were in December 2019 arraigned by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) before Hon. Justice P. H. Mallong on a 12-count charge for alleged misappropriation of N80m that had been deposited in the court by a litigant.

The convict reportedly issued cheques in the name of his wife, also a staff of the Federal High Court of Justice, Abuja, and used the money to acquire property in some major cities across Nigeria.

Based on a plea bargain agreement entered with the convict, the charges labelled against him were amended to four counts and those against his wife dropped.

When the charges were read before the convict, he pleaded guilty to all of them.

The prosecution counsel, Shehu Yahaya, urged the court to convict and sentence the defendant according to the terms of the plea bargain agreement before the court as provided in section 270(10) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015.

Counsel to the defendant, Gbenga Ogunniran, Esq., concurred with the submission of the prosecution counsel, stating that the convict did not only embarrass himself but also embarrassed his family.

He pleaded with the court to temper justice with mercy, especially looking at the fact that the convict was a family man, funding his children’s school and taking care of his aged mother.

The presiding Judge, Justice Mallong, while delivering judgement convicted Mr Udoh to 12 months’ imprisonment on each count, but to run concurrently from the date of his arraignment, which was from 12th December, 2019.

The court also ruled that all property seized by ICPC in the course of investigation, as listed in the schedule of the plea bargain agreement be forfeited to the Commission, and be sold with the proceeds given to the victims of the crime.

In addition, a lien would be placed on the convict’s retirement benefits and/or pension savings for any balance still outstanding against the defendant after the sale of the forfeited property.

Besides, in the event of any outstanding sum, and balance payment by the convict remain unpaid, same is to be paid by instalments as agreed by the complainant and the convict in accordance with section 429 of the ACJA, 2015.

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