In Lagos Estate agent bags 1,230 years imprisonment for defrauding 101 accommodation seekers

Some of the victims who were in court when the judgment was read, who couldn’t contain their joy, ran out of the premises and started screaming and thanking God for the judgment.

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Wild jubilation broke on Thursday at an Igbosere High Court in Lagos when an estate agent, Babatunde Habeeb, was sentenced to a total of 1,230 years imprisonment for defrauding 101 unsuspecting accommodation seekers of N28 million.

Some of the victims who were in court when the judgment was read, who couldn’t contain their joy, ran out of the premises and started screaming and thanking God for the judgment.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Habeeb, also known as Babatunde Salawudeen, was first arraigned before an Ebute Meta Chief Magistrate’s Court with his elder brother, Ishola Salawudeen, ‎in 2013.

They were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on an 82-count charge of conspiracy and defrauding 101 prospective tenants, and they pleaded `not guilty’ to the charge, and were granted bail but Ishola absconded.

While delivering judgment on Thursday, Justice Oluwatoyin Ipaye, found Habeeb guilty of all the counts charged and sentenced him to 15 years imprisonment for each of all the counts. ‎

‎‎Justice Ipaye said that the sentence would run concurrently, starting from March 12, 2014, when the defendant was arrested.

NAN reports that the defendant would, however, spend only 15 years in prison because a concurrent sentence prescribes that the convict would serve the entire sentences simultaneously.

The judge said: “The defendants were motivated by greed; I am convinced ‎that the convict and his brother acted together in the scam.

“Considering the prevalence of crime in the society, there is need to send a signal as crimes like this portray Nigeria in a bad light.”

She also said that the overwhelming evidence and testimonies before the court showed that it was a deliberate plot to defraud the prospective tenants.

The judge held that the prosecution was able to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and “I resolve all the issues in favour of the prosecution’’.

She also ordered the forfeiture of the property ‎to the Federal Government of Nigeria, under the custody of the EFCC.

“The property is hereby forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria, and it should be sold ‎and the N28 million refunded to the victims,’’ Ipaye said.

NAN reports that during the trial the prosecution called seven witnesses who testified before the court.

A 69-year-old retiree woman, Mrs Mariam Eboigbe, in her evidence, told the court that she paid a total of N400, 000 for an apartment but when she went to collect the keys on July 15, 2013 other prospective tenants were also there for the same apartment. ‎

The EFCC Prosecutor, Mr Ben Ubi, earlier told the court that he had filed for an interim forfeiture of the property before a Federal High Court in Lagos, which was granted.

Ubi had alleged during arraignment at an Ikeja High Court in Lagos, that the defendants collected various sums of money from accommodation seekers between May and December 2013 in Lagos.

He said the defendant obtained the money from the complainants under the pretext of securing accommodation for them at No. 59, Oriola St., Alapere, Ketu, Lagos.

He listed those swindled by the defendants to include: Mrs Mariam Eboigbe, Vincent Anthony, Adebunmi Damola, Rilwan Lawal and Azeez Ogundiran, among others.

Ubi said the offences contravened Sections 1(1) and 8 (a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act of 2006.

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