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EFCC kicks against Wale Babalakin’s acquittal over money laundering charges
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has said that it will avail itself of all available options, including the right to appeal, after careful study of a ruling by a Lagos High Court, presided over by Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo, which discharged and acquitted Wale Babalakin, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and three others of a 27-count charge of fraud, conspiracy, and retention of proceeds of criminal conduct brought against them by the Commission.
A High Court, sitting in Lagos, had on Monday, freed the Chairman of Bi-Courtney Limited, Dr. Wale Babalakin, and four others of money laundering charges, on the ground that the charges brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission were defective.
The Court sitting in Ikeja discharged the Chairman of Bi-Courtney Limited, Dr. Wale Babalakin, charged with N4.7bn fraud.
Also freed of the alleged crime by Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo on Monday were Babalakin’s co-defendants: Alex Okoh, Stabilini Vision Limited, Bi-Courtney Limited and Renix Nigeria Limited.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had filed 27 counts bordering on conspiracy, retention of proceeds of criminal conduct and corruptly conferring benefit on account of public action against Babalakin and the others.
The allegation of the anti-graft agency was that the accused fraudulently assisted the convicted former Delta State Governor, James Ibori, to siphon public funds into foreign accounts.
Lawal-Akapo held that the charges filed against Babalakin and others were incurably bad and defective and could therefore not stand.
The allegation of the anti-graft agency was that Babalakin and others aided a former Governor of Delta State, James Ibori, who is now serving a jail term in the United Kingdom, to siphon funds belonging to the state.
The EFCC claimed that the allegedly siphoned fund, said to have run into about N4.7bn, was transferred into the bank account of one Erin Aviation in Mauritius for the purpose of purchasing an aircraft.
Babalakin and others, however, objected to the charge and urged the court to dismiss them for want of competence.
The defendants’ legal team comprising Dr. Biodun Layonu (SAN), Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), Mr. Roland Otaru (SAN), Dr. Joseph Nwobike (SAN) and Mr. Oladapo Akinosun, had predicated the objection on four issues.
One was whether the EFCC could prosecute a criminal case in the Lagos State High Court without invoking the fiat of the Lagos State Attorney General.
The defence also asked the court to determine whether Ibori was a public officer within the contemplation of Section 98(a) of the Criminal Code Laws of Lagos State 2003.
They further contended that it was an aberration in criminal justice for two prosecuting authorities, in this case the EFCC and the Attorney General of the Federation, to jointly file a charge against one accused person.
The defence asked the court to determine whether the EFCC had disclosed enough information on the face of the charge to sustain its case.
Lawal-Akapo, in his ruling on Monday, resolved three of the issues in favour of the accused.
In the final analysis, the judge held, “I find and I hold that the amended information dated May 7, 2013 is incurably bad and defective and it is struck out.
“Consequentially, the accused persons are hereby discharged.”
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