A Personal Assistant to a Badagry prince in Lagos State on Thursday denied aiding him to defraud his siblings of N500 million inheritance.
Mr Afolabi Kazeem told an Ikeja Special Offences Court that he also did not benefit from the alleged fraud.
The News Agency of Nigeria ((NAN) reports that Kazeem testified before the court in a charge of fraud brought against him and Prince Semasa James.
They were charged with defrauding the prince’s 26 siblings, of inheritance from their father, to the tune of N500 million.
Kazeem opened their defence before Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo.
NAN reports that the prince is one of the offsprings of the late Oba Afolabi James of Kweme Land, Badagry, Lagos.
He is also one of the administrators of his deceased father’s estate.
The prince faces a five-count charge of stealing, forging of company resolution, fraudulent disposal of trust property and forgery, while he and Kazeem are jointly charged with conspiracy to defraud and cheating.
Led in evidence by defence counsel, Mr Martins Oyingbo, Kazeem told the court that he is a first cousin to the 27 warring princes and princesses.
He testified that he was involved in the disbursement of funds from the estate.
“I am a first cousin to the children, and my relationship with them is cordial; we have no issues, everyone is happy with one another.
“As relates to the estate, by virtue of the work I do with Mr James (first defendant), the children come to me and I disburse funds from the estate,” he said.
Kazeem denied stealing N150 million for himself or anyone from the estate as alleged in counts six and seven of the charge.
“There was a transfer of N150 million into the account of Komaj Nig. Ltd. (first defendant’s company) and some of that money went back to the estate’s account,” he said.
Denying any impropriety in the alleged theft of N150 million, the personal assistant/manager said that cheques worth N300 million from the sale of a property located on Dideolu Estate in Lagos was received in the presence of another administrator, Mrs Mausi Alakija.
He said that the fund realised from the sale was also paid into the estate’s account.
Kazeem told the court that he took care of the schooling needs of the youngest children of the late king.
“The children of the last wife are Adesewa, Adenike and Adebowale. I took care of their school fees totaling N12 million during the time they were at Babcock University.
“Mr James (first defendant) does most of the funding in relation to the school fees either from his personal account or company account.
“The alleged stolen N150 million does not exist.
“If there is no money in the estate’s account, Mr James takes up the responsibilities, and when money comes in, Mr James takes back what he had spent,” Kazeem said.
While being cross-examined by counsel for the Police Special Fraud Unit (SFU), Mr Oluwafemi Olabisi, Kazeem said he could not recall the year the youngest children of the late king were at Babcock University.
He said he earned a monthly salary of N150,000 while working with the first defendant, and denied syphoning funds from the estate’s account in the guise of estate expenses.
“The monies I received as estate expenses are not specific, and if I want to pay school fees for example, I can only make a N150,000 withdrawal at a time from the estate’s account by the nature of the rules,” he said.
Countering Kazeem’s claim, Olabisi said that in August 2016, a number of withdrawals ranging from N100,000 to N700,000 were made from the estate’s account to Kazeem’s personal account in the guise of estate expenses.
The counsel argued that most of the withdrawals exceeded the N150,000 limit claimed by the personal assistant.
Olabisi told Kazeem to give details of estate expenses.
Responding, Kazeem said that he could not recall what were the estate’s expenses for which the withdrawals were made.
When asked about the whereabouts of N30 million allegedly ‘mysteriously’ withdrawn from the estate’s account, Kazeem said the money was given to the first defendant and one Mrs Mausi Alakija.
Giving account of N2 million he allegedly received from the coffers of the estate, Kazeem said the money was for work done in respect of the Dideolu Estate property sold for N300 million on April 20, 2017.
“I discounted the fee to the broker from N12 million to N6 million, and for reducing the payment to the broker, I was given N2 million,” he said.
Olabisi told Kazeem that James in his statement said the N2 million was an “incentive”.
Responding, Kazeem said, “I would not be surprised if Mr James said that it was an incentive.”
Taiwo adjourned the case until Sept. 24 for continuation of trial.
NAN reports that according to the SFU, the prince abused his position of trust as an administrator of his late father’s estate by fraudulently converting N500 million property from 2005 to 2017 in Lagos.
“According to the second count of the charge, the defendant, in 2011, forged the resolution of a company called CAJ Industrial Enterprises, dated Nov. 28, 2011.
“He had purported that the resolution was signed by his father, who was one of the directors of the company; meanwhile his father died nine years earlier, on Jan. 30, 2002.
“The defendant had forged the resolution with the intent that it would be acted upon as genuine to the prejudice of any person,” the SFU alleged.
It added that the prince fraudulently sold to a private individual, a property belonging to the late king’s estate located at Plot 1440, Ilesanmi St., Itire Road, Surulere, Lagos.
The prince also allegedly illegally leased another estate property located at Plot 282 Ajose Adeogun St., Victoria Island, Lagos, to a bank.
The SFU counsel had said that Kazeem was an accomplice in defrauding the late king’s estate.
“Sometime in 2017 in Lagos, James and Kazeem fraudulently tricked and cheated the beneficiaries of the late king’s estate of N150 million, which was part of the proceeds of sale of a property located om Dideolu Estate, Victoria Island, Lagos,” Olabisi said.
He claimed that the prince also forged a purchase receipt dated Nov. 15, 2004, and an undated deed of assignment between himself and four others.
The alleged offences contravene Sections 383(1), 383(2)(f), 390(9), 421,434, 465 and 467 of the Criminal Code, Laws of the Federation, 2004. (NAN)
– Sept. 17, 2020 @ 15:05 GMT |