27th November, 2020
Justice E.A. Obile of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, Rivers State has convicted and sentenced one James Malaka to seven years imprisonment without an option of fine, for land fraud.
This was handed to him on Wednesday, November 25, 2020, for obtaining money by false pretence to the tune of N6,200,000.00 (Six million Two Hundred Thousand Naira), contrary to Section 8(a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act, 2006 and punishable under Section 1(3) of the same Act.
The convict was arraigned alongside two other defendants: Prince Lucky Elabor and Silas Amadi (convicted) on March 13, 2012, by the Port Harcourt Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on four-count charges, bordering on obtaining money by false pretence to the tune of N6,200,000.00 (Six million Two Hundred Thousand Naira ), to which he pleaded “not guilty” to the charges.
However, at the resumed hearing of the matter on November 25, 2020, defence counsel, O.E.Ikero, informed the court that the defendant was ready to plead guilty to the charges.
Prosecution counsel, Ramiah Ikhanaede made no objection, but rather applied for the striking out of counts two, three and four in the charge and an amendment of the charge to one-count, upon which the defendant would re-take his plea.
The amended one-count read, “That you, Malaka on or about the 17th July 2008 at Port Harcourt, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, with intent to defraud, induced one Wopara James Chizobam to pay the sum of N6,000,200.00 (Six Million, Two Hundred Thousand Naira) under the false pretence of selling to him two plots of land, situated at Elimgbu-Eneka Road, Port Harcourt, which do not belong to you and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1(1)(b) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act, 2006 and punishable under Section 1(3) of the same Act.”
He pleaded “guilty,” following which prosecution counsel called a witness, (PW1) Mohammed Bello to review the case.
In his testimony, Bello, a Detective Superintendent with the EFCC disclosed that the defendant was arrested and investigated over a case of obtaining the sum of N6.2million by false pretences and tendered the defendant’s statements to the EFCC before the court as exhibits.
The defence counsel, however, prayed the court to temper justice with mercy, saying the convict was a first- time offender.
In convicting and sentencing Malaka, Justice Obile noted that the proceeds of the crime have been restituted to the victim through the EFCC.
Malaka ran into trouble when he sold two plots of land that do not belong to him to his victim, who could not possess the land as the rightful owner emerged with genuine claims of ownership; yet all efforts by the victim to recover his money from the convict proved abortive.