Four men, on Friday, admitted their guilt at the Federal High Court in Abuja, conceding that they were unlawfully in possession of smelted gold worth over N1bn and €112,800 on August 10, 2018.
The prime suspect, Abba Yahaya was said to have been arrested with the items at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja while aboard an Ethiopian Airline flight to Dubai in the United Arab Emirate.
The defendants comprising four men and three firms pleaded guilty to the two counts which were read to them before Justice Nkeonye Maha.
The judge fixed 2:30 p.m., Friday, for review of facts and possibly judgment on the plea bargain agreement the defendants had reached with the prosecution, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The defendants are, Yahaya, Ali Abdullahi, Aminu Adam, Aliyu Mohammed and their companies.
The companies with whom they were charged are, Indo Nigeria Minning Co. Ltd, A.A Mai Zinari Ltd, and Al-Izzat Trading and Investments Ltd.
Although the incident occurred on August 2018, the EFCC, through its counsel, Mr Mohammed Abubakar, filed the amended charges against the defendants on July 6, 2019.
The prosecution specifically accused Yahaya (the 1st defendant) and Abdullahi (the 2nd) of attempting to transport the cash sum of €112, 800 to Dubai “without making a declaration of the same to the Nigeria Customs Service as required by section 12 of the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act”.
The act was said to be an offence contrary to section 18(b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under section 2(5) of the same Act.
The rest of the defendants were accused in the second count, of being in possession of the smelted gold weighing about 73,032 grams with a market value of the sum of N1,127,308,460.40 “without a valid permit”.
This act, according to the EFCC, constituted an offence contrary to section 131(d) of the Nigerian Minerals and Minning Act, 2007 and punishable under section 131 of the same Act.
The name of the supposed 3rd defendant, Sino Minmetals Co Ltd, was struck off the charges earlier on Friday, after the EFCC’s lawyer indicated to the judge that the company had ceased to have any relationship with the 8th defendant, Aliyu Mohammad, as its director, as far back as August 2016, about two years after the alleged offences were committed.
Only Yahaya (the 1st defendant) and Abdullahi (the 2nd) are involved in the first count which borders on the €112,800 cash sum, to which they both pleaded guilty.
Abdullahi is not involved in the second count which has to do with the smelted gold.
But the rest of the defendants, comprising, Yahaya, Adam (7th defendant), Aliyu Mohammed (8th), Indo Nigeria Minning Co. Ltd (3rd) A. A Mai Zinari Ltd (5th) and Al-Izzat Trading and Investment Ltd (6th) also pleaded guilty to the second count bordering on the illegal possession of the the gold.
The EFCC alleged that Yahaya was arrested at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja while he was on board an Ethiopian Airline flight to Dubai.
He allegedly under-declared the cash with him by declaring $26,000 in the NCS form instead of the actual €112,800 that was in his possession.
He was also said to have declared to be in possession of gold but failed to disclose its weight and market value.
The cash sum of €112,800 was said to be have been handed to him by Abdullahi, while he was said to have received the gold from Adam (the 7th defendant) who had pooled it in pieces from a group of other persons for transportation to the UAE city.
Adam allegedly connived with Mohammad (the 8th defendant) “by using licences/permits he obtained from Mohammad’s companies to illegally and fraudulently export the gold”.