For a second time, the Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion family once again got what could be described as a slap in the wrist despite being convicted for corruption.
Michael Igbinedion was on Thursday handed a N1 million fine on each of a three-count charge of money laundering by Justice Mohammed Liman of the Federal High Court sitting in Benin, Edo State.
His accomplice and former Accountant General of the state, Mr. Patrick Eboigbodin, was sentenced to two years imprisonment, without an option of fine, in a 10-count conviction that will run concurrently.
Michael’s elder brother and former Governor of the state, who was similarly convicted in 2008, was given an option of fine of N3.6 million.
Lucky, who attended the court in the company of aides, paid the fine within minutes after the verdict and was driven away in a white Peugeot 307 marked Nasarawa AG 16 NSW.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which prosecuted the former Governor appealed the judgement.
On Thursday, Justice Liman also pronounced that the sixth accused in the latest trial, PMI Security Nigeria Limited, a corporate body, be wound down and its asset forfeited to the government.
Before the sentence was passed, the counsel to the first and second accused presented their briefs where they pleaded for leniency for their clients.
The counsel pleaded for an option of fine rather than jail term for their clients.
Chief Richard Ahonanuogho, who represented Eboigbodin, the first accused, said that although the relevant punishment for the offence is jail term, the court also had the discretion to impose fine.
He argued that no money was traced to the personal benefit of the accused and as such, deserved a lighter punishment.
“He has shown complete remorseful, not only during the trials but at all times,” the lawyer said, adding: “He will never, if given the second chance commit the same offence again. This appeal for leniency also became necessary from the length of time the accused has been on trial.”
He also urged the court to apply the principle of suspended sentence if it was necessary.
Alhaji Abubakar Shamsuddeen, who represented Igbinedion, told the court that the plea for leniency became necessary since his client had no previous criminal record.
He admitted that the punishment for the offence for which his client was convicted was punishable by a jail term of not less than two years and not more than three years. But the lawyer urged the court to note that the offender had been remorseful and repentant. He therefor called for an option of fine.
Shamsudeed told the court that a fine was appropriate since the essence of punishment was to rehabilitate rather than destroy.
He also argued that the accused was only a victim of the system which allowed payment by cash as at that time.
However, the EFCC counsel, Mr Tayo Olukotun, objected to the plea for fine. He told the court that an option of fine being canvassed by the accused was not justifiable.
He argue that the trial was not all about the accused but the state as well as the man on the street of Edo.
Justice Liman had on Wednesday convicted the duo of 10 and three counts respectively.
The accused persons and four others were tried for N25bn money laundering charges.
The offences were committed during the tenure of Igbinedion as Edo State Governor between 1999 and 2007.
The trial which has been on for over three years now have suffered several postponements of judgment.