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Double hammer… UK joins Nigeria in sending Walter Wagbatsoma to prison

Walter Wagbatsoma, a Nigerian oil magnate and Chairman of Ontario oil and gas, has been handed a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence in the United Kingdom after he was found guilty of money laundering.

Wagbatsoma had been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, albeit in his absence, in Nigeria, alongside one Adaoha Ugo-Nnadi, by Justice Latefat Okunnu of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja, Lagos State, in January 2017.

They were first arraigned in 2012 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on an eight-count charge of fuel subsidy fraud.

Babafemi Fakuade, a staff of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPRA), who was also joined in the suit, was discharged and acquitted.

At the time the judgement was delivered in 2017, Wagbatsoma was under house arrest in the UK, as his money laundering trial was still going on.

He had been arrested and detained on a European Arrest Warrant in June 2016 whilst travelling through Germany, and was later extradited to the UK where he was charged with conspiring with others to launder the proceeds of fraud through his business interests in the country.

Following his trial at the Leicester Crown Court, Wagbatsoma was sentenced to three years and 6 months imprisonment for his part in the crime.

The judgement delivered on Wednesday also disqualified the convict from being a company director for six years.

Prosecutors said Wagbatsoma laundered the fraudulently obtained funds in the UK through an account in Dubai under the control of a co-conspirator Oluwatoyin Allison, a UK national who had been convicted in his absence at an earlier trial in April 2017 and sentenced to seven years imprisonment.

According to lincs.police.uk, the official website of the Lincolnshire Police Department, 12 other persons had been successfully tried and convicted since the commencement of the investigation, following a complaint of fraud from Lincolnshire Partnership Foundation Trust in September 2011.

The four-year-long investigation has led to convicted persons receiving a combination of more than 50 years prison sentences, with efforts still on to recover the proceeds of what the trial Judge described as a “sophisticated and widespread fraud in its conception and execution”.

“For a small force, this investigation shows that officers in our Economic Crime department have shown real endeavour and determination in investigating what is a huge money laundering and fraud offence,” said Craig Naylor, a Deputy Chief Constable.

“Operation Tarlac has now seen thirteen individuals given lengthy prison sentences for their part in an international offence, which has had a national impact on public bodies in the UK.

“As a force, we have achieved a significant impact against organised crime in this investigation and this shows the hard work by our officers.”

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