Justice Komba Kamanda of the Freetown High Court Thursday, 25 August, found one Abioseh Wattman, a civil servant attached to the Office of the Administrator and Registrar-General guilty of one count of obtaining money by fails pretense, contrary to the laws of Sierra Leone.
The convict, who informed the court that he had spent eight months in prison before granted bail, was charged with one count of obtaining money by false pretense, contrary to section 32(1) of the Larceny Act of 1916.
State Prosecutor Ahmed J.M. Bockarie had alleged that between 1st and 30th March, 2014 in Freetown, with intent to defraud, when he obtained from one Mariatu Kargbo the sum of Le600, 000 by falsely pretending that he would prepare a conveyance for her.
Reading his judgment, Justice Kamanda said the prosecution summoned two prosecution witnesses who testified in the matter to prove their case, stating that the first prosecution witness, Mariatu Kargbo, had testified that she knew the convict.
Justice Kamanda said Ms. Kargbo further told the court that between 1st and 30th March, 2013 she went to the Office of the Administrator and Registrar-General to prepare a conveyance for her building site and was directed to the accused-cum-convict.
He said the witness said in her testimony Wattman demanded the sum of Le600,000 as fees to prepare the conveyance, and that she gave him Le450,000 as first tranche payment.
He said the witness concluded in her testimony that after she gave the money to the convict, she went to the office many times but could not set eyes on him, neither did anybody told her his whereabouts.
“Section 33(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act of 1965 states that in order for the prosecution to succeed in their case they must show clear evidence that indeed the alleged accused took money from the complaint with intent to defraud,” Justice Kamanda noted.
He added that the convict, who was not a lawyer, collected money from the complainant for the preparation of land conveyance, a task that should be done by a lawyer.
“In my view, the money involved is irrelevant but the act by the accused person to collect money with intent to defraud for the preparation of a conveyance, knowing fully well that he is not a lawyer. The evidence in this court shows that indeed the accused received money from the complainant at the Office of the Administrator and Registrar-General and I hereby found him guilty as charged,” the trial judge ruled.
Meanwhile, the prosecutor asked the court that the convict should be given maximum sentence and ordered to pay a compensation of six million Leones to his victim.
In her plea of mitigation on behalf of the convict, Sonia Bobanie-Brown from the Legal Aid Board informed the court that the convict was a first time offender and that he is a family man with dependents.
She pleaded with the judge not to impose a custodian sentence as her client has learnt his lesson during eight of remand in the correctional centre.
She further pleaded with the judge to reduce the compensation to three million Leones instead of six million Leones sought by the prosecution. Justice Kamanda ordered the convict to pay three million Leones as compensation to the complainant prior to sentencing on 3 October.