N4.7bn Money Laundering: Babalakin Again Fails To Appear In Court

The arraignment of the Managing Director of Bi -Courtney Ltd; Dr Wale Babalakin by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over an alleged N4.7billion money laundering charge was again stalled on Wednesday owing to the defendant’s absence in court and his controversial illness.

Mr Babalakin (SAN) is alleged to have laundered the funds on behalf of the convicted former governor of Delta State, Mr James Ibori.

The case however took a new twist as his lawyer; Chief Ebun Sofunde (SAN) announced his withdrawal from the case.

Mr Sofunde withdrew from the money laundering charge filed by the EFCC against his client, citing personal reasons.

He however did say that if Mr Babalakin wishes to challenge his withdrawal, he may decide to tell the court the actual reason behind his withdrawal from the matter.

Presiding Judge, Justice Onigbanjo granted his request for withdrawal and another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Bolaji Ayorinde, announced his appearance for Mr Babalakin.

Chief Ayorinde told the court that he had filed an application for an adjournment of the case as Mr Babalakin is still receiving treatment at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH).

Outside the court, however, counsel to the EFCC, Mr Jacobs described the defence claims as a ploy geared at frustrating the arraignment and prosecution of Mr Babalakin.

Justice Onigbanjo adjourned the case till the 17th of January, 2013.

Meanwhile, in an another case before the Federal High Court Ikoyi involving Mr Bablakin, the presiding Judge; Justice Mohammed Idris adjourned till Thursday the 13th of December, the hearing of a preliminary objection filed by the EFCC.

The Commission is challenging the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court to make an order which can affect the proceedings at the Lagos High Court Ikeja.

If the court agrees with the EFCC, the case at the Federal High Court will be struck out but if the court rules against the Commission, it will then proceed to determine the issues of the legality of the charges against Mr Babalakin and whether the EFCC can proceed against him without the fiat of the Attorney General of Lagos.

 

Jonathan’s aide stands as surety for fuel subsidy fraud suspect

The Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on Intergovernmental Affairs, Mrs. Mariam Ali, has volunteered to be the bail surety for one of the suspects of fuel subsidy fraud, Christian Taylor.

Christian Taylor, a Sierra Leonean, who is amongst the people arraigned for the fuel subsidy scam was, last week granted bail by Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo. But on Tuesday, he applied to have his bail conditions varied.

The judge was told by his lawyer, Kolade Obafemi that it would be difficult for him as a foreigner to produce a blood relation to stand surety for him as he has no such relation in Nigeria.

The lawyer then  informed the court that in place of a blood relative, a reputable and responsible Nigerian, an aide of President Goodluck Jonathan, Mrs. Mariam Ali, has agreed to stand surety for the Sierra-Leonean.

“The proposed surety, Dr. Mariam Ali is a responsible Nigerian. She is the Special Assistant to the President on Intergovernmental Affairs,” he said.

Mrs. Ali who is a Special Adviser to President Jonathan has also agreed to use her landed property situated in Surulere, Lagos as part of the bail bond.

Taylor is standing trial alongside with Mahman Ali, who is son of   Mariam and a former Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ahmadu Ali.

Although the prosecution led by counsel to the EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, opposed the variation of the bail condition on the ground that Taylor was trying to misrepresent fact as he had earlier claimed in his statement that he was a native of Edo State from Okpe local government area before turning around to claim Sierra leone, his counsel assured the court that he would not jump bail.

The judge, however overruled Jacobs, saying, “the essence of granting the bail was to ensure that the accused attended trial.”

Based on this, Justice Onigbanjo varied the bail condition and substituted it with a reputable and responsible Nigerian with landed property in Lagos.

Taylor and Ali along with their company, Nasaman Oil Services were arraigned on July 26 on three counts which includes the fraudulent  collection of about N2.23bn from the Central Bank of Nigeria as subsidy for importing PMS.

The commencement of the trial was fixed for October 30.