A Federal High Court in Abuja has sentenced a herbalist identified as Matthew Sonoma, a.k.a “Dr Perebokowe Ogah” to seven years imprisonment over alleged complicity in Advance fee Fraud, otherwise known as 419.
The 34years old herbalist was accused specifically for defrauding Ambassador Sam Edem, a former chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, the sum of N715 million.
The Warri-based herbalist was convicted by Trial Justice Gabriel Kolawole on the strength of a 15-count criminal charge preferred against him by the Inspector General of Police.
The court stated,that the accused person contravened section 7(2) (b) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act, 2006.
Senator Edem stated, in his petition to the Police, that he paid the money into the account of the accused, accounted with Oceanic Bank,Ughelli branch, claiming the money was a loan he gave the herbalist to execute a business deal.
The petitioner, however, lamented that Mr Matthew refused to refund the money and allegedly threatened his life while the money was kept away from the original account.
Recall that the former NDDC chairman was arraigned by the police before an Abuja High Court in Wuse on allegation that he unlawfully spent about N800 million belonging to the commission on the convicted sorcerer.
Though the allegations were denied by the senator in court, the police however insisted that during investigations into the petition, it uncovered that the NNDC ex-boss spent the said sum to secure the services of the accused with a view of getting protection and favourable contracts from Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State.
The Police further informed the court that the spiritualist confessed that he was paid to help Senator Edem make some sacrifices to be able to retain his position as the commission’s chairman.
However, the ex- NDDC boss denied the allegation, maintaining that he was threatened by the accused into releasing the money, adding that he paid the money through his Personal Assistant, Mr. Denis an SSS officer attached to him.
In his 66 paged judgment on the case against “Dr Perebokowe Ogah”, Justice Kolawole noted that going by the proof of evidence before the court, the ex-NDDC boss paid the amount into the accused person’s account with Oceanic bank Plc, Warri branch and though the accused opened the said account with his real name, following the petition to police, the native doctor, hurriedly opened another account with the same bank under a false name Tunwere Ejoor where he transferred the money in order to conceal the source and location of the money.
Justice Kolawole stated that from the obvious bank documents and evidence from the Manager-in-chief of the bank, the prosecution proved beyond doubt that the convict had fraudulent intention in transferring the said money to another account under a false name during the suspension of police investigation, dismissing the argument of the native doctor that he adopted a new name owing to disagreement he had with his father in the village.
The trial Judge stressed that seven years jail term with hard labour should be a reasonable penalty for the convict as prescribed under section 7 (2) (b) of the Advance Fee Fraud Act 2006.
However, the court declined to make an order for forfeiture and restitution of the money and other exhibits seized by police from the convict.