Afolabi Kazeem, the Personal Assistant/Manager to a Badagry Prince, Semasa James, on trial for alleged N500 million inheritance fraud has told an Ikeja Special Offences Court that he knew nothing about the fraud.
Kazeem, charged along Semasa, while opening his defence, told Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo that he did not aid nor benefitted from the alleged fraud.
Semasa is one of the children of the late Oba Afolabi James of Kweme Land, Badagry and also one of the administrators of his late father’s estate.
Led in evidence by the defence counsel, Martins Oyingbo, Kazeem told the court that he is a first cousin to the 27 warring princes and princesses and was involved in the disbursement of funds from the estate.
He said by virtue of his work with the first defendant, the children of the late king come to him for disbursement of funds from the estate.
Kazeem denied stealing N150million for himself or anyone from the estate as alleged in counts six and seven in the criminal charge filed against them by the Special Fraud Unit (SFU) of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).
“There was a transfer of N150million into the account of Komaj Nigeria 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 N150million, the personal assistant/manager said cheques worth N300million from the sale of a property located at Dideolu Estate in Lagos were received in the presence of another administrator, Mrs Mausi Alakija.
He told the court that the funds realised from the sale were also paid into the estate account and 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 totalling N12million 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 N150million does not exist.
“If there is no money in the estate account, Mr James takes up the responsibilities and when money comes in, Mr James takes back what he had spent,” Kazeem said.
Under cross examination by the prosecutor for the police Special Fraud Unit (SFU) Mr Oluwafemi Olabisi, the defendant said he could not recall the year the young children of the late king were at Babcock University.
He denied syphoning funds from the estate account under the guise of estate expenses.
“The money 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 account by the nature of the rules,” he said.
The prosecutor Olabisi, however, countered Kazeem’s claim.
Olabisi told the court that in August 2016, some withdrawals ranging from N100,000 to N700,000 were made from the estate account to Kazeem’s personal account under the guise of estate expenses.
He said most of the withdrawals, exceeded the N150,000 limit claimed by the personal assistant.
Kazeem, however, could not recall details of the estate expenses for which the withdrawals were made when told to do so by the prosecutor.
On the N30million allegedly withdrawn from the estate’s account, Kazeem said the money was given to the first defendant and Mrs Mausi Alakija who are the estate’s administrators.
Giving account of N2million he received from the coffers of the estate, Kazeem said the money was for work done in respect of the Dideolu Estate property that was sold for N300million on April 20, 2017.
“I discounted the fee to the broker from N12million to N6million and for reducing the payment to the broker, I was given N2million,” he said.
Olabisi told Kazeem that Semasa in his statement said the N2million was an “incentive”. Responding, Kazeem said: “I would not be surprised if Mr James said that it was an incentive.”
Justice Taiwo adjourned the trial until September 24 for continuation of trial.
The prince Semasa is facing a five-count charge of stealing, forging of company resolution, fraudulent disposing of trust property and forgery while he and Kazeem are jointly charged with two-counts of conspiracy to defraud and cheating.