In the broadest sense, a fraud is a deception made for personal gain, although it has a more specific legal meaning, the exact details varying between and among jurisdictions. Many hoaxes are fraudulent, although those not made for personal gain are not best described in this way. Not all frauds are hoaxes.

In the broad legal sense a fraud is any crime or civil wrong for gain that utilizes some deception practiced on the victim as its principal method. Fraud is the knowingly false misrepresentation of a material fact that induces another to rely upon it to their detriment. It is not only restricted to personal gain, as it can be corporate gain also. Deception is in and of itself not fraudulent. It has to be knowingly false misrepresentation that the other party relies upon to their detriment wherein otherwise they would not have acted and conversion is the process or an act of changing from the original form.

Fraudulent Conversion could be seen as a criminal act whereby an individual or group of individuals uses deception and fraud for personal benefit. Legally, it is a criminal offence, using deception to change something that is neither yours nor your property to become yours criminally. In the court of law, where an accused person is charged with the offence of fraudulent Conversion and found guilty, the penalty for such offence could range from five years to more in prison, pending on the jurisdiction the offence is committed and the extent and magnitude of the offence. In Sierra Leone, the offence of fraudulent conversion is a serious one and normally goes with a penalty of imprisonment.

This is dictated by the Larceny Act, 1916, section 20, sub-section (1), paragraph 1V (a)&(b) This brings to mind the present scenario between the Handicapped Community and James Taiwo Cullen, Managing Director of 96.2FM Radio Station in relation to a structure that was built by the National Commission for Social Action, popularly known as NaCSA funded by the African Development Bank. It would be recalled that the construction of the Hill Side Road affected a number of residents of the Hill and James Taiwo Cullen was one of them whose Radio Station 96.2 FM was affected.

Those affected received compensation packages from the then SLPP Government of ex-president Ahmed Tejan Kabbah. In the case of James Taiwo Cullen, he was not only compensated, but received a piece of land known as CSE Compound, where he is currently erecting a two-bedroom flat. After enjoying his compensation, he wrote a letter to NaCSA dated 31st May, 2007 (see letter) requesting the partial use of the Community Centre for the Handicapped at Kingharman Road in Freetown. In a letter dated 4th June, 2007 was a response to his request, which was granted by the Western Area District Coordinator.

The contents of the letter from NaCSA was done in a very simple language “ With reference to your above request to utilize the above facility, I write to grant you temporary use of the facility until final completion of outstanding works. You are therefore requested to ensure proper use so as to avoid damage to the facility prior to the official handing over. Should you require further discussion, please feel confident to refer to the Western Area District Coordinator” wrote Mrs. Madina Boakae Samba.

There is nowhere in the letter that states the building was built for him or belongs to him (See letter) It is no more a secret that James Taiwo Cullen is laying claim on the building and publicizing on his radio that the building belongs to him. This claim has ignited serious debates among Sierra Leoneans as to when NaCSA started putting up buildings and give them to individuals? Officials at NaCSA, knowing that James Taiwo Cullen has no legitimate claim to the building has written a letter to the Ministry of Social Welfare, informing them about the building that it is a Community Centre for the Handicapped, but it is becoming very clear that the Minister and Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Social Welfare are afraid to handover the building to the legitimate owners for fear that James Taiwo Cullen would use his Radio Station to attack them and present them negatively to the public.

In 2009, NaCSA wrote a letter to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Communication explaining the purpose of the building and went to the extent of informing the ministry how James Taiwo Cullen has rented part of the building to a Radio Station for Le25,000.000.00 (Twenty Five Million Leones). The Ministry of Information and Communication did not take any action, nor did the Minister Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo acknowledge the effort of NaCSA (See copy of letter) Few days back, members of the Handicapped Community stormed the building compound demanding their property.

The action reportedly instilled fear into James Taiwo Cullen, which forced him to put a distress call to Law Enforcement Agents, claiming that his life was in danger. What has now come out very clearly is the undisputable fact that James Taiwo Cullen’s intention is to fraudulently convert the building to his own us and benefit, while depriving the vast majority of the Handicapped Community that have legitimate claim on it (To be continued)

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