Badagry Prince, Semasa James, is to spend the next one year in prison for using forged documents while administering the estate of his father, late Oba Afolabi James of Kweme land, Badagry.
An Ikeja Special Offences Court convicted Semasa on Tuesday after it found him guilty of that offence.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Semasa was charged alongside his personal assistant, Afolabi Kazeem.
He was accused of defrauding his 26 siblings of N500 million inheritance while administering the estate of the deceased king.
The Badagry prince faced a seven-count charge bordering on forgery, uttering of false document and fraudulent disposal of trust property.
The charges were preferred against him by the Special Fraud Unit (SFU) of the Nigeria Police Force.
His personal assistant faced a charge of receiving stolen property.
Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo, in her judgment, 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.
Taiwo found the first defendant guilty of three charges bordering on uttering (using) forged documents and sentenced him to one year in prison on each count, which will run concurrently.
He also gave him a N450,000 fine option.
She declared: “Based on the oral and documentary evidence, I find that the prosecution failed to prove the three-counts of stealing beyond reasonable doubt.
“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 N2 million was stolen and he received same knowing it was stolen.
“The first defendant is hereby sentenced to one-year imprisonment or N450,000 fine.”
Prior to convicting and sentencing the first defendant, the judge had said that the case could have been resolved amicably in 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’s 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,” she said.
The judge suggested that to avoid future strife, the family should appoint more administrators to administer the estate of late Oba Afolabi James.
Taiwo 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 of funds.
In his allocutus (plea for mercy), the defence counsel, Mr Martins Oyigbo, had 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 said.
NAN reports that during the trial, 12 witnesses testified for the prosecution while six witnesses testified for the defence.
According to the 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 St., Itire Road, Surulere, Lagos to a private individual.
He was also accused of illegally leasing another property located at Plot 282, Ajose Adeogun St., 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 also alleged that Kazeem had allegedly received stolen estate funds from the first defendant.
Kazeem was also alleged to have connived with Semasa to defraud the beneficiaries of the late king’s estate of N150 million, which was part of the proceeds of sale of a property located at Dideolu Estate, Victoria Island, Lagos. (NAN)