Mr Adebowale James, a prince of Kweme Land of Badagry, Lagos on Monday narrated to an Ikeja Special Offences Court how Semasa James, his half brother also a prince, cheated his 26 siblings of N500 million inheritance from their father late Oba Afolabi James.
Adebowale was testifying at the resumed trial of Semasa and Afolabi Kazeem over a seven-count charge of conspiracy, cheating, stealing, forging of company resolution, fraudulent disposing of trust property and forgery.
Adebowale, an Abuja-based businessman while being led in evidence by Mr O. O Olabisi, the prosecutor of the Police Special Fraud Unit (SFU) narrated how Semasa, the Sole Administrator of their late father’s estate, abused his position and mismanaged funds.
The prince said that the Semasa’s alleged mismanagement of funds and property belonging to the estate of the late king was uncovered by his siblings after he cheated them out of funds from the sale of a property at Dideolu Estate, Victoria Island, Lagos.
He said:”My dad died on Jan. 30, 2002, 27 children survived him and he left a whole lot of valuable property that I cannot fully mention in choice areas of Surulere, Ajose Adeogun, Victoria Island and Badagry. My father did not leave a will to the best of my knowledge.
“The first defendant (Semasa) is my half brother, he is the eight child of 27 children and he is the fourth son, and he is the only administrator of the estate and the signatory to the account.
“Last year, on behalf of the family, I helped the first defendant get a buyer for the family property at Dideolu Estate, Victoria Island, I found a developer and the property was sold for N300 million.
“The money was paid in full and he (Semasa) took half of the money for himself and sent peanuts to the rest of the family. We had agreed on a sharing formula and everyone was to get an equal amount regardless of age.
“The beneficiaries who were 26 were supposed to get N10 million, I received approximately N7million while others got N5million each, the first defendant kept N190 million for himself sharing N110 million for the rest of us.”
Adebowale told the court that Semasa had before sharing the proceeds, informed his siblings that he was entitled to N40million from the sale of the Dideolu Estate property but for the sake of peace, the family decided not to challenge his claims.
“We got a real estate developer to work on the property, the family decided that we would give him the N40 million and share the rest, but despite our decision he kept a substantial part of the funds for himself,” he said.
Adebowale noted that after Semasa allegedly cheated his siblings of their Dideolu Estate inheritance, the family discovered that he had illegally leased a property located at Plot 282 Ajose Adeogun St., Victoria Island, Lagos to Ecobank Plc.
While being cross-examined by Mr Martin Oyibo, Semasa’s defence counsel, Adebowale told the court that he and other younger siblings had difficulty accessing funds for their school fees and upkeep when Semasa managed the estate.
“We used to collect our school fees from the first defendant’s office, it was always delayed and we could not function properly because of that.
“During the time we took the matter to the SFU, the family hired an auditor who revealed that he had mismanaged the estate to the tune of N500 million,” he said.
A mild fracas had ensued between warring members of the James family while the case was stood-down for a short recess.
Mrs Adeola Ogbeyemi, Alhaja Shaki Balogun and Mrs Olabisi Kuku had approached one Mrs Bakare the Matriarch of the James family threatening her with violence for signing the petition against Semasa that was sent to the SFU .
When proceedings resumed, Olabisi informed the court of the fracas seeking that Ogbeyemi, Balogun and Kuku be banned from future proceedings due to their unruly conduct.
Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo ordered that the three women should identify themselves however, Ogbeyemi was the only one present in court while Balogun and Kuku had left the premises.
“It is a lie, I did not talk to her, we are family,” Ogbeyemi told the judge.
Responding Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo said “You are family but you are not one, I would not hesitate to detain anyone for any altercation, name calling or abuse. We are in this together, to ensure that harmony and piece are brought back to the family.”
Following the warning Justice Taiwo granted Kazeem, the second defendant who had been remanded in custody since Nov. 12 bail of N5 million with two sureties in like sum. She adjourned the case until Nov. 28, Dec. 12 and 13 for continuation of trial.