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Travel agent jailed 2yrs for misappropriating N10m airline tickets

By Moji Eniola [NAN]

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A travel agent, Babawale Ponle was on Thursday sentenced to two years in prison by an Ikeja Special Offences Court for misappropriating N10 million worth of airline tickets.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Ponle, who is the Managing Director of Travel Doctor Ltd., was charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) with four-counts of stealing and issuing of dishonoured cheques.

According to the Mr. Samuel Daji, the lead EFCC prosecutor, Ponle between March to Dec. 2012, misappropriated N10 million worth of airline tickets.

The tickets were given to him on credit by a travel company, Sound Travel Services Ltd.

The defendant had, however, claimed in his defence during the trial that the tickets were sold by him to IRS Airlines on credit.

He was also accused by the anti-graft agency of issuing two dud cheques to Sound Travel Services Ltd. in the sum of N3 million and N7 million respectively.

“The offences contravene Section 285(7) of the Criminal Law of Lagos 2015 and Section 1 of the Dishonoured Cheques Offences Act,” Daji said.

Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo in her judgment, found the defendant guilty of a count of stealing and two-counts of issuing of dishonoured cheques.

She found him not guilty of one-count of stealing due to the nonappearance in court of a witness of EFCC to give evidence.

Justice Taiwo in the verdict noted that the prosecution had succeeded in proving that part of the N10 million was diverted by the defendant for his own use.

“This court is mindful of the fact that this case emanated from a business arrangement between the defendant and the complainant.

“However, the defendant since 2013 has failed to pay anything to the complainant. The court is satisfied that he used out of the N10 million for his personal use.

“In light of this fact, I hereby sentence the defendant to two years imprisonment or a fine of N250, 000.

“On the two-counts of issuance of dud cheques, I hereby sentence the defendant to one year in prison or a fine of N200, 000,” she said.

The judge said restitution would not be ordered in the case because the complainant had already been awarded restitution via a civil suit.

She noted that Justice Oyekan Abudullahi of a Lagos High Court had in a judgment ordered N10 million to be paid by Ponle as restitution to the complainant over the same issue.

NAN reports that earlier in her judgment, Justice Taiwo had given a breakdown of how the funds were misappropriated by the convict.

She said: “By Exhibit A, the defendant conceded that in the month of December 2012, IRS Airlines paid the defendant the sum of N3.3 million.

” The N3.3 million was part payment for tickets sold to IRS Airlines in the sum of N7 million leaving a balance of N3.7 million.

“The defendant revealed the part payment of N6.3 million to the complainant. The statements revealed that no payments were made to Sound Travels after 2012 except the two cheques issued to the defendant which bounced.

“By Exhibit N to N14, the total paid to the defendant by IRS Airlines was N8.9 million. By Exhibit Q2, the defendant’s Zenith Bank Statement it was revealed he paid the complainant a total sum of N5.1 million.

“A subtraction of the funds, which the defendant received from IRS Airlines and what was paid to the complainant leaves a balance of N3.7million.

“Both documents relied on by the defendant revealed that IRS Airlines paid the defendant close to N9 million but the defendant diverted some of the funds to his personal use.” (NAN)

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