Justice M. N. Yunusa of the Federal High Court sitting in Enugu has sentenced Col. Eugene Okpala (retd.) to seven years in prison in a case of conspiracy, and obtaining money under false pretences to the tune of N34.5m.
The convict duped a church, Dominium City Church, of the sum in 2010.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission said in a statement by its spokesman, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, that the 62-year-old convict was earlier slated for trial on Wednesday but the case took a different turn when the retired colonel decided to change his plea from “not guilty” to “guilty”.
Okpala was said to have in 2008, approached one lawyer, Vincent Obetta, of Igwurube Chambers and a member of Dominion City Church under the pretext of having large portion of land for sale at N40m.
The complainant, Dominium City Church, in need of a landed property to build their school, negotiated and eventually bought the land for N34.5m.
The church also paid additional five percent of the sum, which is, N1.75m as agency fee to Igbwurube Chambers.
Consequently, in September 2010, the church started developing the land, but another lawyer came up to tell them that the land belonged to one Chief Philip C. Asiodu.
The statement read in part, “Investigation was launched into the matter and the convict was found culpable and was arraigned. During trial, counsel for the EFCC, I. I. Mbachie tendered 13 exhibits which were admitted in evidence and marked as exhibit C1-13.
“Having changed his plea, the defence counsel, E. O. Isinu, prayed the court to temper justice with mercy saying, his client was a first time offender.
“Justice Yunusa consequently sentenced Okpala to seven years imprisonment on each count preferred against him. The sentences are to run concurrently.”
Meanwhile, the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, says the commission has secured 140 convictions and recovered billions of dollars in stolen funds in just six months.
Magu said this in Abuja on Thursday during a programme titled, “Clean Hands against Corruption,” a youth-driven programme aimed at instilling values in the young ones.
The programme was held simultaneously across the six geo-political zones.
In his welcome address titled ‘We Must Win the War on Corruption and Impunity’ after an endurance trek, Magu said, “In just six months of this year, we have secured over 140 convictions, including some elusive high profile criminals.
We have recovered billions of dollars worth of stolen funds and blocked numerous avenues of money laundering.”