A mild drama played out before a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja Monday as alleged cash courier, Abdulrasheed Ibrahim, forced the trial court to defer his sentencing.
Ibrahim, who had on January 17, pleaded guilty to a one-count charge preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, suddenly made a U-turn insisting that he was being framed-up by the anti-graft agency.
The accused, via an application he entered through his team of lawyers, maintained that he was compelled to plead guilty to the charge, even as he accused the prosecuting agency of misrepresenting facts pertaining to the circumstances that occasioned his arrest.
Contending that he did not properly understand the charge on the day he admitted guilt, Ibrahim urged the trial Justice Adamu Bello to set-aside his previous plea and proceed with hearing the substantive case brought against him by the EFCC.
Besides, he told the court that contrary to allegation that he concealed the money eventually found on him, he had evidence to prove that he accurately declared all the money he intended to travel with on the day he was caught.
He maintained that the customs officers that cleared him should be held culpable for whatever mix-up that subsequently culminated in the charge against him.
Though the trial court ab-initio slated yesterday to sentence him, Justice Bello, however, sequel to the new twist on the matter, deferred the case till tomorrow, even as he granted the accused person bail in the sum of N1million after he produced a surety in like sum.
It will be recalled that the EFCC had on November 7, 2012, apprehended the accused person on allegation that he attempted to smuggle $188, 858 out of Nigeria through a Dubai/United Arab Emirates-bound Ethiopian Airline.
EFCC maintained that though he declared $45, 000 as the total amount of cash on him, a search conducted on him revealed that he actually concealed monies totalling $188, 858.
Before the accused person pleaded guilty to the offence, the prosecuting counsel, Chioma Okongwu, had adduced a certified true copy of export currency, tendering a list along with the sum of US 188,858.00, which the trial high court admitted into evidence.
Specifically, the charge against him read: “that you Abdulrasheed Ibrahim on or about the 7th of November 2012 at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court while transporting in cash the sum of US 188,858.00(One hundred and eighty eight thousand, eight hundred and fifty eight United States dollars)only from Nigeria to Dubai, United Arab Emirates falsely declared to the Nigerian Customs Service the sum of $45,000.00 (forty five thousand United State dollars) only instead of the said sum of US$188,858.00 as required under section 12 of the foreign exchange (monitoring and miscellaneous provisions) Act Cap. F34 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and Section 2(3) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 2(5) of the money laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.”