By FAITH OMORUYI
The proposed arraignment of the Chairman of Bi-courtney Limited, Olawale Babalakin and four others in a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja yesterday over an alleged N4.7 billion money laundered was stalled due to his absence. T
he Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC) had filed a 27-count charge before Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo against Babalakin, Bi-courtney Limited and Stabilini Visioni Limited, as well as Alex Okoh and his company, Remix Nigeria Limited for helping convicted ex-governor of Delta State, James Ibori to fraudulently transfer various sums of money through third party to some foreign accounts.
During proceedings yesterday, Okoh was present in court for the arraignment, but Babalakin was absent. Babalakin’s counsel, Ebun Sofunde (SAN) told the court that his client is currently on admission at Lagos University Teaching Hospital ( LUTH) over an unnamed ailment.
He stated that he had earlier presented a letter to the registrar of the court, which contained a medical report by one Dr. Charles Hammond on his client’s ill-health. He therefore, sought for a short adjournment from the court to enable the first defendant to recover to appear for his arraignment.
Though prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) did not counter Sofunde’s application for an adjournment, he stated that he was “disappointed at the tactics of the first defendant.” He noted that the said medical report was dated November 26, 2012 when Babalakin was at EFCC’s office in Abuja throughout November 26. He added that it took up to a week before EFCC officials were able to locate him and serve him court processes despite of all efforts to get him.
He said Babalakin was only released due to the presence of one Dr. Layonu (SAN) who came with him. Jacobs held that the sureties ought to have raised the issue of ill-health earlier so the agency could confirm the medical report, which was only brought to his team’s notice yesterday. In his response, Babalakin’s counsel stated that his client’s health could have deteriorated due to stress after he appeared before the EFCC office in Abuja on the 26 November, 2012 for questioning. However, delivering his ruling, Justice Onigbanjo directed the EFCC counsel to verify the claims that Babalakin was on admission at LUTH.
He also urged the commission to get an independent medical report on the true state of Babalakin’s health and adjourned the matter till December 12 for possible arraignment. According to the charge of conspiracy, retention of criminal proceeds and corrupt transfer of public funds filed against the defendants ,they allegedly corruptly conferred benefits on Ibori on contracts awarded to Stabilini by transferring the sum through a third party to Erin Aviation Account in Mauritius for the procurement of a Challenger Jet Aircraft by Ibori.
The defendants were also alleged to have siphoned money abroad for Ibori through the said Erin Aviation Account in Mauritius. The various companies that were used to transfer the alleged stolen fund includes Interactive Technologies Ltd, Sopetrol Oil and Gas Ltd, Casaka Nigeria Company Ltd, Geofluids Ltd, ABS Ltd and Hyundai Heavy Industries Nigeria Limited.