Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court in Lagos has convicted and sentenced controversial Nollywood filmmaker and producer, Olajide Kareem, also known as, Seun Egbegbe, to seven years imprisonment ‘with hard labour’ for fraud.
Justice Oguntoyinbo sentenced Kareem after she found him guilty of one of the 40-count charges filed against him by the police.
The judge declared that 43 of the 44-count charge were dismissed because of a lack of witnesses to substantiate the claims.
The court also held that the prosecuting team failed in their responsibility to produce evidence to be backed up witnesses on Counts 4, 19 and 21.
She further accused the police of tampering with the money recovered from the suspects and therefore ordered that all the money recovered from Egbegbe as evidence should be returned to him.
Justice Oguntoyinbo held, “having considered the entirety of the circumstances and taking judicial notice of the allocutus, I hereby sentence the first Defendant (Kareem) to prison for a term of Seven years with hard labour, only in respect of Count 19 of the Amended Charge.
“The term is to begin from the very first date the first Defendant was detained in police custody and/or remanded in prison, whichever comes first. I so hold.
“This is to send a clear message to all and sundry, the young and as well as the old, the unknown and the famous that, regardless of the number of days a crime goes unpunished, the law would take its course in due course.
“Most importantly, the prosecution witnesses’ contradictory testimonies have failed to satisfy the exact various sums of money contained in the majority of the unviable and unsupported counts of charges filed against the first Defendant. I so hold.
“From the avalanche of evidence before this Honourable Court, it is crystal clear the Nigerian Police tampered with the various sums of money collected from the first and second Defendants. The serial number of the various sum of money was not recorded by the Exhibit Keeper nor the Exhibit Ledger tendered before this Honourable Court.
“The Nigerian Police Force, Lagos State Police State Criminal Investigation & Intelligence Department, Panti, Yaba and the entire Lagos Police Command and sadly its Legal Department have failed in the discharge of these solemn responsibilities to present the actual exhibits before this Honourable Court. I so hold.
“These law enforcement agencies should not be seen to play hanky – panky with crucial items necessary for the determination of issues of this ilk. I so hold.
“Therefore, I am inclined to direct the registrar of this Honourable Court to return the first and second Defendant’s sums of money entered as exhibits before this Honourable Court back to the first and second Defendants respectively. I so hold.
“I hereby acquit and discharge the 2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th Defendants from the charges levelled against them,” the judge held.
Based on the judgment, the convict was free to go home because he had exceeded the imprisonment time in detention.
The actor was first arraigned by the police in February 2017 on 36 counts of advance fee fraud involving N39 million; $90,000 and £12,550.
The police alleged that he fraudulently obtained the money from no fewer than 40 Bureau De Change operators in Lagos between 2015 and 2017.
The convict pleaded not guilty and was remanded in prison custody on February 10, 2017, pending when he would fulfil the terms of his bail.
He was, however, unable to meet the bail terms and remained in detention throughout the trial.
The charge sheet was subsequently amended twice, with the counts eventually increased to 40 and three other defendants – Lawal Kareem, Olalekan Yusuf and Muyideen Shoyombo – added, making the defendants five.
The five Defendants entered pleas of not guilty to the 1st and 2nd counts while Kareem, the 1st Defendant, pleaded not guilty to the remaining thirty-eight counts.