A BARRISTER acting for the tenants of a £1m-plus North Oxford house has said a Nigerian claiming to be its owner is really a front man for someone else.
John Clargo made the claim during an eviction hearing yesterday at Bicester Magistrates’ Court that will decide the fate of the occupants of 17 Warnborough Road.
The case has taken two years to enter its final stages and was brought by Nigerian Abbey Folami. He is trying to evict tenants Philip Brown and Keiron Halstead.
The 47-year-old claims he legally bought the property in 2007 for £108,000 and by leasing some land in Nigeria.
But during his closing speech, Mr Clargo said documents entered as evidence of this sale – including birth and death certificates, a lease agreement and transfer documents – were forgeries.
The barrister said Chief Obasola Atobatele, the previous owner of the house who died in 1989, did not transfer the property to his brother, as has been claimed by Mr Folami, or then subsequently passed to a son called Joshua.
Mr Folami is arguing the property was transferred to the chief’s brother – also called Obasola Atobatele – in 1987 and then nephew Joshua in 2002, who sold it on to him.
Mr Clargo added that neither of these relatives really existed and further claimed the chief’s nephew Joshua was actually someone else entirely pulling strings behind the scenes.
He said: “The reason (Mr Folami claims to own the house) was to have a new name to make it easier for Joshua, whoever he really is, to get the tenants out.
“It was to further Joshua’s fraudulent design to gain vacant possession of a valuable property.
“And our case is that Mr Folami was party to all of these fraudulent designs.”
Mr Clargo said on the death certificate presented to prove the chief’s brother had died in 1991 it listed his place of death as the Crown Medical Centre in Nigeria, which did not exist in 1991. He said: “My submission is that this is another attempt to make Obasola Atobatele appear to be a genuine person.”
Mr Clargo added that Mr Brown and Mr Halstead had already won costs in previous cases where Mr Folami tried unsuccessfully to have them evicted.
The tenants have separate legal proceedings under which they are trying to prove ownership of the house should pass to them under a system called adverse possession. The case is expected to conclude today.