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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Bobrisky convicted of Naira Abuse, sentencing postponed to a later date

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The Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday fixed 9 April to sentence controversial cross-dresser Idris Okuneye, popularly known as Bobrisky, for Naira abuse.

Justice Abimbola Awogboro reserved ruling on Bobrisky’s ruling after the social media celebrity pleaded guilty to a four-count charge brought against him by the EFCC.

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The judge ordered Bobrisky to be remanded in EFCC custody pending sentence.

The hearing began at 11:55 a.m. with Sulaiman Sulaiman appearing for the EFCC while Ayo Olumofin appeared for the defendant.

Mr Awogboro directed Bobrisky to unveil his face, which was covered with a black hijab. He complied.

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The charge, marked FHC/L/244c/2024, originally contained four counts of naira abuse and two counts of alleged money laundering.

But before it was read to the defendant, Mr Sulaiman prayed the court to strike out counts five and six concerning alleged money laundering and arraign Bobrisky on counts one to four.

“We have an agreement with the defendant which will lead us to withdraw counts 5 and 6. In this circumstance, we humbly urge the court to strike out counts 5 and 6. Leaving count 1 to 4 alive,” Sulaiman said.

Granting his prayer, Mr Awogboro then struck out the two counts and ordered that the now four-count charge be read to the defendant.

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Bobrisky pleaded guilty to each of the four counts.

” Yes, I am guilty,” he said when the registrar asked if he understood the charge read to him.

Evidence

Mr Sulaiman then reviewed the facts of the case and called an EFCC Assistant Superintendent, Bolaji Temitope, as his witness.

Prompted by the prosecution, the witness explained how they found the incident.

Mr Temitope said: “The EFCC received intelligence of individuals who are in the habit of spraying Naira during parties in Lagos. Based on this, the EFCC set out an operation team to monitor and observe the activities of individuals in the habit of doing so.

“We usually visit event centres and monitor social media pages where the Naira is abused. During the exercise, we came across videos on social media where the defendant was seen abusing the Naira.

“Our team then viewed the video and burnt the same on CD. Consequently, an invitation letter was forwarded to the defendant. When he honoured the invitation. The defendant was shown a video where he was spraying money on Segun Johnson. He confirmed that he was the one in the video.

“An event at the Island Circle mall was also shown to the defendant. A total of 400k was spent. The defendant was also shown another video in Aja Junction, Ikorodu and an event centre at Ikeja. He admitted to spraying money in all the videos. He then offered his statement in writing.

A video clip was shown to the witness, confirming the defendant’s statement.

The statement and videos were tendered without objection.

The court admitted them as exhibits and marked them Exhibits 1 and 2, respectively.

“That is the case of the prosecution, and we pray the defendant will be convicted as charged my lord,” the prosecutor told the judge.

In a bench ruling, Mr Awogboro held: “The defendant is convicted as charged”.

‘First-time offender’

But Bobrisky pleaded for mercy, saying he was unaware that spraying money at parties was a crime.

He said: “I am a social influencer with over five million followers. I’m not aware of the law. I wish I could be given a second chance to use my platform to educate my followers about the spraying of Naira.

“I’ll not repeat this. I regret my actions, my lord. I’m a first-time offender.”

His lawyer added that he had turned a new leaf and prayed the judge to grant Bobrisky a non-custodial sentence and an option of a fine.

The charges comprised four counts of naira abuse and two counts of suspected money laundering.

In the first count, Bobrisky is alleged to have tampered with N400,000 by spraying the same while dancing at a social event at the IMAX Circle Mall, Lekki, Lagos on 24 March.

The offence is contrary to and punishable under Section 21(1) of the Central Bank Act 2007.

In count two, Bobrisky, between July and August 2023 at Aja Junction, Ikorodu, is said to have tampered with another sum of N50,000 by spraying the same at a social event while dancing.

In count three, Bobrisky, in December 2023, at White Steve Event Hall, Ikeja, also sprayed and tampered with another sum of N20,000 while dancing.

Count four also accused Bobrisky of spraying and tampering with another sum of N20,000 while dancing at another event in Oniru, Victoria Island.

Penalty

Earlier, Mr Awogboro struck out the money laundering allegations (counts five and six).

Bobrisky appeared before the court on a six-count charge brought against him by EFCC, bothering on naira abuse and other offences.

Following the conviction, Bobrisky faces three possible penalties: serving six months in prison, paying a fine of N50,000, or both.

According to Section 21 (1) of the CBN Act 2007, “a person who tampers with a coin or note issued by the Bank is guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable for imprisonment for a term not less than six months or to a fine not less than N50,000 or both such fine and imprisonment.”

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