In a legal ruling that took place on Friday, August 4, 2023, Andrew Nwadiashi, a 40-year-old banker, and a group of eight individuals involved in internet fraud were found guilty and subsequently sentenced to prison by Justice M. Itsueli of the Edo State High Court situated in Benin City.
Among the convicted were Osawa Marvellous, Etinosa Ogieva, Erharruyi Osaigbovo, Isaac Godstime Eghosa, Obasohan Kelvin, Evans Jessa Mike, Timothy Odion, and Festus Efe Iyengunmwena.
Nwadiashi, a banker who worked at the Warri branch of First Bank in Delta State, was apprehended based on a complaint lodged by the bank in 2020. In his capacity as the Head of Non-Financial Transactions, he allegedly violated banking protocols by debiting a customer’s account for a sum of N9,354,000.00. An investigation into the matter led to Nwadiashi’s confession to the crime.
The remaining eight defendants were arrested following intelligence linking them to internet fraud activities. They were subsequently arraigned on distinct single-count charges related to theft, retention of illicit gains, and unlawful possession of counterfeit documents by the Benin Zonal Command of the EFCC.
Upon their arraignment, all the defendants pleaded guilty to the respective charges they faced. This plea prompted the prosecution counsel, consisting of I. M Elodi, IK Agwai, K.Y. Bello, and Ibrahim Faisal, to request the court to proceed with the conviction and sentencing of the defendants.
Justice Itsueli then proceeded to pass down the verdict. Nwadiashi was handed a two-year prison term or the option to pay a fine of N200,000. The defendant had already fully repaid the sum of N9,654,000.00, encompassing the principal amount and the accrued interest, as restitution to the victim.
Marvellous, Odion, Ogieva, and Iyengunmwena received three-year prison sentences along with the choice of paying a Three Hundred Thousand Naira fine. Osaigbovo and Mike were each sentenced to three years in prison, with the alternative of a Two Hundred Thousand Naira fine.
Eghosa and Kelvin were each given a one-month prison term in addition to a Two Hundred Thousand Naira fine.
Justice Itsueli also decreed the forfeiture of a Toyota Lexus ES 330, a Lexus E350, mobile phones, laptops, and the remaining balances in the convicts’ bank accounts to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
One of the charges against Nwadiashi stated: “That you, Andrew Nwadiashi, sometime between 2019 and 2020, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did take possession of the aggregate sum of N9,354,000 (Nine Million, Three Hundred and Fifty-Four Thousand Naira) transferred into Bank account number: 2033930949 domiciled in First bank PLC, which funds you knew were derived from your unlawful acts, namely: stealing, and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 18(1) (a) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act and punishable under section 18(2) of the same Act.”
The charge against Kelvin read: “That you, Obasohan Kelvin, sometime in April 2023, in Benin City, Edo State, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did take possession of the sum of N2,298,000 (Two Million, Two Hundred and Ninety-Eight Thousand Naira) transferred into your bank account number: 0652694791 domiciled in Guarantee Trust Bank PLC, which funds you knew were derived from unlawful acts, namely: internet fraud, and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 18(1)(a) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act and punishable under section 18(2) of the same Act.”
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