A Badagry Prince, Prince Semasa James of Kweme land has been sentenced to one year imprisonment for defrauding 26 siblings of a N500million inheritance while administering the estate of their late father Oba Afolabi James.
Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo of the Special Offences Court, Ikeja on Tuesday found him guilty of three-counts of uttering of a false documents and sentenced him to a year in prison on each count, which is to run concurrently or an option of N450,000 fine.
Semasa, the first defendant was charged alongside his personal assistant Afolabi Kazeem.
Justice Taiwo however in her judgement found Semasa not guilty of the charges of forgery and fraudulent disposal of trust property noting that the prosecution failed to proved its case beyond reasonable doubt.
According to the trial judge, the prosecution’s oral and documentary evidence failed to prove the three-counts of stealing beyond reasonable doubt against him.
She ruled, “I find the defendant guilty of uttering a false document.
“I find the first defendant not guilty of fraudulent disposal of trust property.
“I find the second defendant (Kazeem) not guilty of receiving stolen property as the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the said N2million was stolen and he received same knowing it was stolen.
“The first defendant is hereby sentenced to one year imprisonment or N450,000 fine.”
Before handing down the judgement, the Justice Taiwo said that the case could have been resolved amicably within the family without the warring princes and princesses resorting to litigation.
“It is unfortunate that such a problem cannot be resolved amicably, instead of washing the family dirty linen in public.
“One wonders what legacy the elders in the family are leaving behind for the younger ones.
“It is suggested by the court that the family wipes clean the slate and start afresh,” Taiwo ruled.
Advising the family, the judge said to avoid future strife, the family should appoint more administrators to administer the estate of late Oba Afolabi James.
The judge said that the administrators should be transparent to the beneficiaries of the estate and a neutral body should also manage the account of the estate and open fresh books and records to avoid mismanagement funds.
Pleading on behalf of the Prince, the defence counsel, Mr. Martins Oyigbo asked the court to temper justice with mercy.
“He is a first time offender my Lord and he had no intention of defrauding the family.
“My Lord should please give an option of fine as the family will take the advice of the court and resolve the matter amicably,” Oyigbo pleaded.
During the trial, 12 witnesses testified for the prosecution while six witnesses testified for the defence.
According to the Special Fraud Unit, SFU, prosecutor, Mr. Oluwafemi Olabisi, Semasa had fraudulently converted N500 million property belonging to the late king, between 2000 and 2017 in Lagos.
The prosecution alleged that Semasa fraudulently sold a property located at Plot 1440, Ilesanmi Street, Itire Road, Surulere, Lagos to a private individual.
He was accused of illegally leasing another property located at Plot 282, Ajose Adeogun Street, Victoria Island, Lagos to Ecobank Plc.
Semasa also allegedly forged some purchase receipts of his late father’s property as well as the signature of the late king on the Corporate Affairs Commission documents of CAJ Industrial Enterprises.
The SFU had further said that Kazeem had allegedly received stolen estate funds from the first defendant.
Kazeem is alleged to have connived with Semasa to defraud the beneficiaries of the late kings estate of N150 million, which was part of the proceeds of sale of a property located at Dideolu Estate, Victoria Island, Lagos.