The Volksrust Magistrate’s Court in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province has convicted and sentenced a 42-year-old Nigerian national, Benjamin Ezeokwuosa on charges of corruption after he handed R5,000 to a Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (known as the Hawks) investigator in a bid to secure the release of his brother.
Ezeokwuosa and an alleged accomplice were arrested by the Hawks’ serious organised crime investigation team based in Secunda on May 8, 2022.
Spokesperson for the Hawks in Mpumalanga, Captain Dineo Lucy Sekgotodi said on the day, members of the Hawks were at the Volksrust Magistrate’s Court attending a drug-related case.
“An investigator reportedly received a phone call regarding an unknown Nigerian male who wanted to meet him to negotiate the release of his brother who was appearing in court for dealing in drugs. The brother was apparently arrested on the December 9, 2021 and has been in custody since,” said Sekgotodi.
The Hawks investigating officer requested to meet with the caller in person, outside the court.
Before going to meet the caller, the Hawks officer requested for verbal authority to conduct an undercover operation, and the permission was granted.
“A sting operation was then put in place. While the Hawks investigator was walking towards the State vehicle, he was approached by Mr Nwaebiem Uchenna Uzuegbnam, who requested assistance for his brother to be released,” said Sekgotodi.
The Hawks officer was promised gratification of R5,000 if the arrested man gets bail.
Sekgotodi said while the two were in a conversation, they were joined by another Nigerian man.
“While they were there, the two (Nigerian men) told the officer that they had both accumulated R5,000 which they handed as gratification to him for the release of the brother,” she said.
The Hawks officer was further promised an additional amount to make the case disappear.
Consequently, the two Nigerian men were arrested and charged for corruption.
“The accused appeared in court on several occasions. Accused number two, Benjamin Ezeokwuosa, was granted R5,000 bail while Nwaebiem Uchenna Uzuegbnam aged 44 was remanded in custody,” said Sekgotodi.
Benjamin Ezeokwuosa later pleaded guilty and was sentenced by the Volksrust Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday. The court slapped him with 10 years direct imprisonment for corruption.
The case against Nwaebiem Uchenna Uzuegbnam was postponed to September 7, for separation of trial arrangements.