A Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered that a Nigerian, Rasheed Mustapha, be extradited to the United States of America for allegedly stealing $798,907.62 (N125.3m) in that country.
The verdict came after a lot of drama between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and Mustapha, who through his counsel, Joseph Nwabike, fought the extradition order.
Nwabike had argued that the court was not competent to hear the extradition charge. He added that he could not be extradited because of the alleged offences, more so, when the offences were not against any Nigerian law.
The office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, which filed the extradition order on behalf of the EFCC, had explained in the order that, “... a request has been made to Nigeria by a diplomatic representative of the Embassy of the United States of America, Abuja, for the surrender of Rasheed Abayomi Mustapha who is jointly a subject of a superceding indictment in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, Case Number: 08-CR-429 and filed on the 31st day of October, 2011.”
Some of the charges against Mustapha in the USA include, “Conspiracy to violate the laws of the United States, in violation of Title 18, United States code, Section 1349, namely mail fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment. Mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341 and Title 18, United States Code, Section 2.”
The letter had added that each count was punishable by a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment.
In her ruling, Justice Patricia Ajoku dismissed the preliminary objections, stating that based on the Nigerian constitution, the court was competent to decide the extradition of the accused person.
She subsequently said the accused person should be extradited to the US to face the charges. Ajoku also faulted the accused person's argument that the offences were not known to the Nigerian laws.
EFFC Acting Head of Media, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, said from the commission's investigation, Mustapha and his collaborators conspired to steal $798,907.62 in distribution cheques.
He said, “Of that amount, $750,651.48 was actually issued and deposited into bank accounts controlled by members of the syndicate. The sum of $500,000 was withdrawn and distributed between Mustapha and his group.
“Mustapha, 37, had returned to Nigeria after allegedly committing the crime in the United States. However, collaboration between the EFCC and the FBI led to his arrest by the operatives of the EFCC in May last year.”