A decision rendered by the judge of Criminal Court ‘C’ at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia last Thursday ignored the prison sentence of a Nigerian convict, Spencer E. Azubuike, who was declared guilty of stealing US$48,000.
Instead, Judge Blamo Dixon requested Azubuike to immediately pay back US$9,850 out of the US$48,000, an amount which he swindled from MMI Venture, a Micro Finance Credit Business Organization where he served as agent, with the understanding that 5% of the interest of each loan he collected would be given to him as take home pay.
The credit business is owned by another Nigerian, identified as Malachy Mbadupha, who pressed the criminal charge against defendant Azubuike.
Moreover, the judgment fined Azubuike US$300 to be deposited into government revenue no later later than today.
Dixon’s judgment did not explain the time frame and processes by which Azubuike is expected to begin the payment of the US$9,850 out of the US$48,000.
The judge’s action resulted from his confirmation of the unanimous guilty verdict entered by the trial jury against the defendant.
Surprisingly, the court judgment was challenged by Azubuike’s legal team, which has up to 30 days to appeal against it to the Supreme Court.
With that action by Azubuike’s lawyers, it means Dixon’s judgment would not be enforced now pending the outcome of the matter at the Supreme Court, where the defendant sought redress, though there is no telling how long his appeal hearing could stay at the High Court.
Before Dixon’s judgment, Azubuike, on March 28 this year, was arraigned before the court, where he was charged with theft of property, but he pleaded not guilty.
Azubuike’s denial of guilt put the burden of proof on the Ministry of Justice, the prosecution, to legally establish the criminal charge against him.
Having publicly responded with a not guilty plea, Azubuike, in line with the 1986 Constitution, asked to be tried by a jury, a request granted by Judge Dixon, who later constituted a 12 member jury panel that subsequently found defendant Azubuike guilty of theft.
The case grew out of an allegation by MMI Venture Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Malachy Mbadupha, who charged that the defendant, while serving in the position that awarded 5% of every collateral business made on behalf of the entity, Azubuike criminally took away US$8,000 of money collected for his personal benefit.
Apart from the US$8,000, Mbadupha alleged further that Azubuike could not account for two vehicles valued at US$12,000 as collateral entrusted to his care.
Again, Mbadupha claimed that a 42-inch flat screen plasma television, valued at US$6,000, a video camera valued at US$2,000 and a Caterpillar (yellow machine) valued at US$36,000, totaling US$48,000, were all collateral that Azubuike misapplied.