An Ikeja Special Offences Court has sentenced a crypto currency trader, Shola Henry, to two years imprisonment in the custody of the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCS) for stealing N18,460,000 belonging to a businessman.
Delivering the judgment on Wednesday, Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo gave the convict and option of fine in the sum of N2 million.
The convict was arraigned on an amended seven-count charge bordering on obtaining money under false pretenses and stealing brought against him and his company, Henry Enterprise Concept by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The court discharged the convict of count one to six bordering on obtaining money by false pretenses. He was however convicted on count seven bordering on stealing by fraudulent conversion.
Justice Taiwo held that the business of cryptocurrency operates in an unpredictable environment.
The judge held that the defence was able to prove that the convict was paying his clients when the market was good until after it became unpredictable.
She however held that the convict was liable to refund the money deposited to him for the crypto currency business by the depositor whether or not he is making money from the transaction.
In his allocutus, the defence counsel, Adeola Onikosi prayed the court to temper justice with mercy and for non-custodial sentence.
Onikosi told the court that the convict was a first time offender and has kids who depend on him.
But the prosecutor Ahmed Yerima disagreed with the defence saying that the convict was a second time offender.
Yerima prayed the court to order the convict to make restitution to the nominal complainant and for forfeiture of items recovered from him.
Justice Taiwo, after considering the allocutus of the defence counsel and submission of the prosecution, convicted and sentenced the convict as charged.
Justice Taiwo also ordered the convict and his company, Henry Enterprise Concept to make restitution to the nominal complainant in the sum of N18,450,000 within the next six months.
She, in addition, ordered that the convict’s iPhone be forfeited to the Federal Government.
During trial, the prosecution called five witnesses to prove his case against the convict.
The petitioner, a businessman who testified as one of the witnesses, had told the court that he met the defendant through someone, who convinced him that the defendant could help make such mouth-watering returns on investment.
He told the court that afterwards, at different times he transferred money to the defendant totalling N18,450,000.
He said the defendant gave returns about two times but afterwards began to default in payment of returns until he declined to refund the capital investment as previously promised.
The defendant, the witness alleged, later reduced returns from 20 per cent to 10 per cent, yet he did not get any returns, neither did he get his initial investment back.
In his defence, the convict claimed that he was into cryptocurrency business but that he was just an agent and not the actual trader.
He had claimed in his testimony that he was unable to give returns on investment “due to crash in Bitcoin”, arguing that the cryptocurrency crashed sometime in 2018.
He had claimed that one Abiodun Semawon Henry, his brother who he could not tell the court of his whereabouts was the lead trader.