Middleman bags 11-year jail term for N48.5m theft

An Igbosere Magistrates’ Court sitting at Tinubu Square, Lagos Island, on Monday, convicted and sentenced an agent, Okwudili Ezeobi, to 11 years imprisonment for swindling a businessman of the sum of N48,580,000 under false pretense of helping him purchase phones from Dubai.

Magistrate Azeez Alogba ordered the convict to pay the complainant the full amount of N48,580,000 back on or before May 22, 2024, or serve the 11-year jail term.

Ezeobi was arraigned on June 20, 2022, on two counts of obtaining false pretence and stealing preferred against him by the police.

The prosecutor, Inspector Friday Mameh, told the court that the incident happened on January 10, 2022, adding that the money was meant for the purchase and shipping of 300 phones from Dubai, the property of one Mr Onyekachukwu Mba.

According to him, the offences committed contravened Sections 314 and 287 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.

However, the convict pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

Trial commenced, and the prosecution called two witnesses, while the convict testified for himself.

The complainant, Mba, who testified before the court, stated that he is a businessman who sells phones and that he met Ezeobi in January 2022. By January 10, 2022, he sent the sum of N48,580,000 to the convict to help him purchase phones from Dubai as a middleman/agent.

Mba told Magistrate Alogba that prior to meeting the convict, he had been purchasing his phones from the United States of America. Due to shipping delays, he was discouraged, and thereafter, he found a company in Dubai. After conducting his checks and confirming that the company was on GSM exchange, he contacted one of the company’s staff who gave him the convict’s number.

The magistrate held that the complainant, in his testimony, stated that he contacted the convict via WhatsApp, and they did their first transaction, which was successful.

He said that the complainant, in his evidence, said, “After the first transaction, they did a couple of other transactions, which were successful, but that the last transaction they did had a minor issue with the exchange rate, which got the convict angry and he said, ‘what about agents that carry people’s money and run away’.

“Mba stated all the payments he made to the convict were into an account given to him by Ezeobi and that after the last payment, he told Ezeobi, both on chat and voice note, that he should personally go and check the goods before and after payment.

“He said the convict never told him that he was in Nigeria during that transaction. If he knew the convict was in Nigeria, he wouldn’t have transferred the money to him, adding that to date, his goods have not been delivered, neither has his money been refunded.”

Ezeobi, in his defence, told the court that he was a businessman and that he dealt in provisions and shipped goods from Dubai to Nigeria.

He testified that he knew the complainant sometime in February 2021 when he called him to ask if he could help him with money exchange from Nigeria to Dubai.

The convict stated that he does business with his younger brother, who is in Dubai, and that it was one Mohammed that Mba paid the money into his account in Dubai.

He testified that after the payment was made, the complainant sent the picture of the invoice of the payment to Mohammed who now said they should give him one day to deliver the phones, adding that when Mohammed failed to deliver the phones as promised, his brother went to their office where he met Mohammed’s colleague and showed him evidence of the payment and the case was then reported to the police.

The convict further said that after the search through the immigration system by the police in Dubai, it was discovered that Mohammed had travelled back to Pakistan, and that the police advised them to get a lawyer, which they did.

While delivering the judgment, Magistrate Alogba held that the prosecution was able to establish that Ezeobi made a false representation of Mba by concealing his location.

“The prosecution having established all the ingredients of the offence against Ezeobi, he is hereby guilty of count one.

“The prosecution has been able to successfully prove all the ingredients of the offence of stealing against Ezeobi, and the court, therefore, finds him guilty of count two.

“I find in conclusion that Ezeobi is guilty of the two counts against him, and he is accordingly convicted on the two counts.

“He is hereby sentenced to pay the sum of N48,580,000 back to the complainant on or before May 22, 2024, or serve a term of eight years for count one and three years for count two.

“The sentences are to run concurrently starting from today, the day of judgment,” Magistrate Alogba held.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *