N4.7bn Money Laundering: Babalakin’s Case Stalled, Court Adjourns To March 14

A Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja has adjourned till March 14, the hearing of the applications filed by the Chairman of Bi-Courtney Ltd, Mr Wale Babalakin, challenging the court’s jurisdiction to entertain the N4.7 billion fraud charge preferred against him.

Mr Babalakin and his co-defendants, Alex Okoh, Stabilini Visioni Ltd., Bi-Courtney Ltd and Renix Nigeria Ltd, were charged to court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2013.

They were first arraigned on January 17, 2013, before Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo on a 27 count charge of allegedly aiding convicted former Delta State Governor, James Ibori, to transfer N4.7bn to Mauritius between May and December 2006.

The accused persons all pleaded not guilty and challenged the competence of the charges against them when Justice Onigbanjo was transferred. The case file was then re-assigned to the current judge, Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo.

Before the present judge,the accused persons have also filed separate applications challenging the court’s jurisdiction and the competence of the charges.

They argued amongst other things that the EFCC lacked the power to prosecute them before a state high court without a valid fiat of the Attorney General of the Federation.

At the hearing of the case today, counsel to the EFCC, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), told the court that he sprained his ankle last week in an accident. He urged the court to grant him an adjournment to enable him attend to his health.

Counsel to Mr Babalakin, Dr Abiodun Layonu (SAN), however urged the court to allow the defence to adopt their written addresses in support of the applications seeking to quash the charge.

Justice Lawal-Akapo refused this move. He held that he was inclined to grant the adjournment on the basis of Mr Jacob’s injury, after which the adoption of the written addresses on the applications was adjourned till March 14.

Babalakin Questions Legality Of Criminal Charge Against Him

The Chairman of Bi-Courtney Limited, Dr. Wale Babalakin has challenged the legality of the criminal charge filed against him and four others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before an Ikeja High Court.

He also filed an application asking the court to dispense with, his physical presence in court pending the hearing and determination of his application challenging the charges.

Mr Babalakin is facing trial alongside one Alex Okoh, a banker and three companies, Stabilini Vision Ltd, Bi-Courtney Ltd and Renix Nigeria Ltd for fraudulently transferring 4.7 billion Naira on behalf of the convicted former governor of Delta State, James Ibori.

The EFCC alleged that Babalakin and his co-defendants fraudulently assisted Ibori to transfer huge sums of money through various parties to Erin Aviation account in Mauritius for the purchase of a Challenger Jet aircraft.

The defendants, who were however billed for a fresh arraignment before a new trial judge, Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo, resisted the arraignment on the basis of their pending applications challenging the court’s jurisdiction.

The former trial judge, Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo, has been moved to the Commercial Division of the High Court.

Mr Babalakin also refused to go into the dock, while his counsel, Mr. Wale Akoni, argued that he could not be docked until the determination of his pending application challenging the charge and the jurisdiction of the court.

The trial judge, Justice Lawal-Akapo, ruled in favour of Mr Babalakin and subsequently extended the same ruling to the co-defendants after an application by their counsel.

The court directed the Police and the EFCC not to re-arrest Mr Babalakin because the bail earlier granted to him by the former trial judge, Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo, was still in force.

The judge also ordered the EFCC to release Mr Okoh’s international passport to enable him embark on two business trips between December 2013 and January 2014. He is to return the international passport to the EFCC not later than January 30, 2014.

Further hearing in the case has been fixed for the January 20, 2014 for the hearing of all pending applications.