Court Jails Famzhi Boss Five Years Over N2bn Ponzi Fraud

In a major boost to the enforcement activities by the Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Chairman and Managing Director of Famzhi Interbiz Ltd, Mariam Suleiman has been sentenced to five years’ imprisonment without option of fine for defrauding investors of over N2bn.

Justice Inyang Ekwo of Federal High Court, Abuja, found Suleiman and her company guilty of the allegations in counts one and two by the Federal Government.

According to Ekwo, “upon the provisions of Section 516 of the Criminal Code Act and Section 56(6) of the Securities and Investment Act being read to the defendants, for understanding of the terms of punishment therein.

“And upon hearing the allocutus of the learned counsel for the defendants and considering same, I am minded not to impose the full punishment on the 1st defendant (Suleiman) particularly,” he said.

He consequently sentenced Suleiman to three years’ imprisonment in count one and two years imprisonment in count two which would run concurrently from the date of the order.

He equally ordered the company to be wound up and all its property forfeited to the Federal Government, stressing that “the said property shall be sold and the proceeds there-of used to compensate the victims of this crime.”

The SEC had three years ago disclaimed the activities of Famzhi Interbiz Limited, warning that neither the entity northe ‘illegal products’ they offer were registered or regulated by the Commission.

The Commission stated that despite not being licensed, the company proceeded to unlawfully solicit funds from the investing public on product(s) neither registered nor approved by the Commission, with the promise of a guaranteed return on investment in clear violation of the Securities and Investment Act (ISA) 2007.

Consequently, the SEC said it had referred the company to the appropriate law enforcement agency for criminal investigation and possible prosecution for violation of the provisions of the Investments and Securities Act 2007 and other relevant laws in Nigeria.

Earlier in the judgment, Justice Ekwo said it is clear that the 1st and 2nd defendants conspired among themselves together with their other staff to do an illegal act.

“That is, to lure and offer for subscription an unregistered investment collective scheme valued over N2 billion to the unsuspecting general public.

“On that note, I find that the offence of conspiracy in count one is proved as required by law and I so hold.”

Justice Ekwo also held that by the evidence of the prosecution witnesses and the exhibits tendered, it was established that the defendants “ran a scheme in pursuance of which members of the public were invited or permitted to invest money in a portfolio for a participatory interest.

“This evidence was never controverted by the defendants. The position of the law as settled in many authorities is that evidence adduced in court, that is relevant to the issue in controversy, and has neither been challenged nor successfully debunked becomes good and credible evidence, which ought to be relied upon by a trial judge.”

He said it was also pertinent to note that the MD herself admitted both in her evidence-in-chief and during cross-examination of running the scheme.