Two young men have been convicted and sentenced to 13 years imprisonment respectively by the Lagos State Magistrate Court, Igbosere, for stealing a total sum N50 million, proceeds of United States of America visa fees.
The convicts; Ismail Adefila and Busari Kabiru were docked before Magistrate Folashade Botoku, on a three-count charge bordering on fraud, forgery, and stealing.
The convicts, who earlier pleaded not guilty to the charge when they were first arranged, were charged alongside Friday Attah, who was discharged and acquitted.
According to the charge against them, the trio conspired with one other, now at large
to commit felony to wit forgery and stealing, thereby , committed an offense contrary to and punishable under Section 409 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State of Nigeria 2011.
They were alleged to have made false visa payment receipts of United States of America B1 ad B2 visa categories for fresh applicants and to be acted upon as genuine to the prejudice of United States Consulate Lagos and thereby committed an offense punishable under Section 363 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2011.
They were also alleged to have stolen the sum of N50,000,000.00 being proceeds of United States of America visa fees.
During the trial, the prosecution called two witnesses and tendered several exhibits. The two witnesses who testified for the prosecution. are Abdulafis Olayimlka ljale and DSP Lawal Audu , who was the Investigating Police Officer (IPO).
In his own Evidence in Chief, Ijale stated that
he was Introduced to the Adefila by a friend and he entrusted his personal application to the first defendant to help him secure an appointment date.
The witness disclosed that he paid the sum of N50,000 to Adefila, out of which the sum of N31,200 was the cost of his visa fee and the rest of the money was for service rendered.
“‘A week later, I was informed by Adefila that my attention was required at the American Consulate in Lagos. On getting there, I was interrogated on how I made visa fee payment and I was requested to produce the receipt for the payment.
” I went back to the Adefila who took me to GTBank where the payment was confirmed.
I took the said receipt to the American Embassy and was told that the same receipt had been used for other applicants. It was also discovered that the telephone number on the said receipt did not belong to me.
“Based on the revelation, I was requested to produce Adefila at the Embassy. I reported the matter to the Police and the first defendant was arrested”,
the witness told the court.
The second prosecution witness, DSP Audu, in his testimony before the court, said on or about February 18, 2015, the police received a letter of complaint from the American Consulate General, addressed to the Commissioner of police, Police Special Fraud Unit (PSFU). The case was assigned to him ( Audu), to investigate.
In the course of investigation, he got to report that the first defendant named In the petition had been arrested and was at Area ‘C, Adefila was arrested as a result of complaint lodged by the first prosecution witness, Ijale , a victim of the first defendant, a letter dated 1 February 18, 2015 was written to Area ‘C’ requesting a transfer of Adefila to PSFU for further interrogation .
“At the PSFU, the statement of the first defendant was taken under caution. Upon carrying Investigation to tAdefila’ s place of business at Bonny Camp Military Barracks, fake Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) American Visa fees and forms were recovered.
” Our investigation revealed that the first defendant was using GT8 visa receipt of one applicant to pay two to three applicants’ visa fees. Before then, the Consulate had noticed shortfalls in their visa application fees leading to loss of the huge amount of money.
“It was discovered that the first defendant applied for ljale and Bankole Salau. Adefila used one Visa fee receipt for both applicants. The first defendant also used the visa fee ticket of one Oylndamo|a for a minor, Priscilla. Over 350 applications had the first defendant’s two telephone numbers: Airtel and MTN.
“We went to the American Consulate to find out whether it was an acceptable practice for someone else’s phone number and address to be used for another person’s application. The response we got was that it was not only unusual but fraudulent.
Due to affirmation, we further interrogated Adefila on it, and he admitted to the crime.
The first defendant admitted that he manipulated the applications of Bankole and ljale and Prisci||a and Oyindamola.
By doing so, Adefila denied the American consulate of funds of N62,400 which he had offered to repay and it was duly recovered”, Audu, told the court.
However, in their defense, all the defendants denied involvement in the crime.
Delivering the judgment, Botoku found the first and second defendants guilty of the charge pressed against them but discharged and acquitted the third defendant.
She said :
“In the instant case, the evidence adduced by the prosecution was that the first and second defendants engaged in touting and assisting persons to make visa payments for applicants at GTB.
” From the evidence adduced, the modus operandi of the first and second defendants were to use the receipt of one applicant, manipulate the same using the ’ Core draw application and Microsoft word for other applicants. To further establish the Criminal intent, the telephone numbers of Adefila are contained in the visa applications which obviously do not belong to him.
“The first defendant admitted that he made a payment on behalf of Mr. Ijale. He admitted making payment for Bankole Oyindamola. He, however, never paid the visa fee for Bankole OyindamoIa and Mr. IJale to the Consulate through the bank. Rather the receipt of Priscilla Oladejo was manipulated and presented as the receipt of Bankole Oyindamola, while the receipt of Abiola Salau, was also used for ljale.
“The second defendant admitted making payment for Mr. Oiabanji, whose receipt he used for another customer that he could not remember his name. The first and second defendants repaid N62,400 and N31,200 respectively.
” The attempt to deny culpability on the ground that they were compelled to make the repayments is a lame excuse in view of the overwhelming evidence, being the bundle of receipts tendered as exhibits before the court.” “For instance, exhibit ’13’ (receipt detail) for Priscilla Oluwasemilore Oladejo, bears the same receipt number on exhibit ‘6’ which is the receipt of Bankole Oyindamola Oreoluwa.
The second defendant in his statement tendered as exhibit ‘M1’ admitted that he used the receipt issued for Mr. Olabanji, for another applicant whose name he could not remember.
“I have listened to the allocated by Defence Counsel and the prosecutor’s request that maximum punishment is Imposed.
I have considered both parties prayers, the first and second defendants have exhibited greed. They are part of a group who want to reap where they have not sown and thus constantly bringing the country’s reputation to disrepute. I hereby , found the first and second defendants guilty and sentenced them accordingly.
For count one and two, three years imprisonment each, and for count three, seven years imprisonment. The above sentences are to run concurrently.”, the court ruled.
Philomena Ngozi Christopher-Oji was born to the family of the late Michael and Cecilia Ojeogwu of Ubulu-Uku, in Aniocha South Local Government Area, Delta State. She had her primary and secondary education in Nwanoli and Ezemu Girls College, in Ubulu-Uku, before she proceeded to the Delta State University, Abraka, where she studied English and Literary Studies.