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N266m fraud: Fake army general who forged Buhari’s signature bags 7-year jail term

N266m fraud: Fake army general who forged Buhari’s signature bags 7-year jail term
July 07
17:30 2022

A special offences court in Ikeja has sentenced one Bolarinwa Abiodun to seven years imprisonment over false pretence, forgery and fraud.

Abiodun was arrested by operatives of the Lagos command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged impersonation as an army general.

Abiodun was arraigned on April 11 before Oluwatoyin Taiwo, a judge, on a 13-count charge bordering on “obtaining money by false pretence, forgery of documents and possession of documents containing false pretence to the tune of N266,500,000″.

In the course of the trial, the prosecution, through its team of lawyers — Rotimi Oyedepo, A.O. Muhammed, S.I. Suleiman and E.K. Uduak — presented six witnesses and tendered documentary evidence to prove the case.

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After the EFCC closed its case on June 20, 2022, the court ordered Abiodun to open his defence.

However, at the court session on Thursday, Otunba Ogunleye, defence counsel, informed the court that his client had decided to change his plea “rather than going through the rigours of defence”.

With no objection from the prosecution, the 13 counts were read afresh to the defendant.

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“I’m guilty,” he said to all the counts.

Following his guilty plea, Oyedepo gave a review of the facts, urging the court to rely on the evidence of the six witnesses presented by the prosecution and the various documents tendered through them as exhibits A to W.

“We seek to rely on the unequivocal admission of the defendant by way of his plea admitting the essential ingredients of the offence against him,” he said.

“The law is trite. When the defendant pleads guilty to an offence, the burden on the prosecution is as light as feather.

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“Even on the strength of his extra-judicial statement, it’s clear as crystal that the defendant admitted to the essential ingredients of the offences alleged against him.

“We seek your lordship’s order to convict the defendant as charged.”

Delivering judgment, Oluwatoyin Taiwo, the presiding judge, convicted the defendant.

The defence counsel prayed for “a very minimal sentence”, adding that the defendant was remorseful as “demonstrated by his willingness to change his plea and not to further waste the judicial time in this case”.

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“He has a wife and several children as well as numerous extended family members under his care to whom he is the breadwinner,” the lawyer added.

Responding, Oyedepo said although the defendant has no record of previous conviction, the court should impose a sentence to serve as deterrent to others who may want to engage in similar crime.

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He further urged the court to order the forfeiture of four vehicles recovered from him — a black Range Rover Sport, a black BMW, a black Toyota Landcruiser, and a white Toyota Hilux — and a property located at 1A, Joke Ayo Street, Riverside estate, Alagbado, Lagos, as part of restitution to the victim.

Oyedepo also urged the court to order the closure of the First Bank account used to perpetrate the fraud, in which the defendant changed his name from “Hassan Karim Ayinde” to “Bolarinwa Oluwasegun Abiodun” to perpetrate the fraud.

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In sentencing the convict, the judge held that the jail term was to pass a message to fraudsters.

“The defendant went the length of involving a former president of this country, general Obasanjo, and forged documents allegedly signed by the current president of this country, President Muhammadu Buhari,” the judge said.

“It is so sad that people like the defendant have given our beloved country a bad image.

“It is obvious that the defendant appears to be a very intelligent man; more is the pity that he could not put his ingenuity to better use.

“In the light of the seriousness of this scam, and in order to send a clear message to all scammers, fraudsters and criminals, this court is prepared to protect the interest of Nigerians and the society at large.

“I, therefore, sentence the defendant to seven years imprisonment without an option of fine.”

The court also ordered the forfeiture of the proprieties in order to help the victim recover his money.

The convict was also ordered to pay N20 million as restitution to the victim, while an order was also given for the closure of his First Bank account.



This story is published in partnership with Report for the World, a global service program that supports local public interest journalism.

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