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Money Laundering charges: How Justice Lawal-Akapo freed Wale Babalakin
It's no longer news that Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo, on February 23, 2015 freed Dr. Wale Babalakin, Chairman of Bi-Courtney Limited, as well as Alex Okoh, Stabilini Vision Limited, Bi-Courtney Limited and Renix Nigeria Limited of their alleged involvement in a N4.7bn fraud charge brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Consequently, Babalakin is a free man, even though there are strong indications that the EFCC will appeal the ruling.
The EFCC 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.
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 the accused fraudulently assisted the convicted former Delta State Governor, James Ibori, to siphon public funds into foreign accounts.
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 had alleged that the 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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