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EFCC accuses Babalakin of planning to escape

12 December 2012, 16:20

Lagos - The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday accused the Chairman of Bi-Courtney Ltd., Wale Babalakin of plotting to flee the country to evade arraignment over an alleged N4.7 billion fraud.

The commission made the allegation through its counsel, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) before Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo of a Lagos High Court in Ikeja.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Babalakin is presently on admission at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) for an undisclosed ailment.

His continued admission in hospital on Wednesday again frustrated the EFCC from arraigning him for fraudulently transferring N4.7 billion on behalf of convicted former governor of Delta State, James Ibori.

However, Jacobs who was responding to the complaint by his lawyers that EFCC operatives had laid siege on LUTH premises, said it was done to ensure that he did not escape.

Jacobs said Babalakin was hiding in the hospital to evade arrest, adding that the embattled businessman had even called the EFCC that he wanted to go home.

 "He (Babalakin) asked for a guarantee from the EFCC that he will not be arrested upon leaving the hospital, but we rejected it.

"We had an intelligence report that he wanted to leave the country.

 "It is our duty to ensure that he does not escape. It has happened before. Ibori left this country and was jailed in the UK. It is the duty of my client (EFCC) to ensure that this should not happen again".

He said the application for an adjournment, which was filed by Babalakin's counsel and his suit against the EFCC at the Federal High Court, Lagos, were aimed at stalling the arraignment.

However, Babalakin's counsel, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN) and Dr Abiodun Layolu (SAN), said the EFCC was only making wild allegations against their client.

 Layolu said: "The continued siege on the first defendant (Babalakin) in the hospital by EFCC operatives can worsen his health condition and delay the arraignment.

"His hypertension has been aggravated by the presence of these stern looking operatives in the hospital premises".

 Ayorinde, on his part, dismissed the anti-graft agency's claim that Babalakin was stalling the arraignment by filing different applications.

 He said: "The first defendant is entitled to all the protection of the law in the country.

"If he sees that his rights are being trampled upon, he has the right to take the necessary legal steps".

The judge, after hearing their arguments, urged the EFCC to get an independent medical report on Babalakin's health status and forward it to the court.

Onigbanjo adjourned the matter to Jan.17 for hearing of the applications filed by defence counsel and for Babalakin's possible arraignment.

Meanwhile, the court also granted Babalakin's former counsel, Mr Ebun Sofunde (SAN), permission to withdraw from the matter.

Sofunde in an application dated Dec. 4, informed the court that he was withdrawing his representation for "personal reasons".

NAN reports that Babalakin was charged to court alongside Alex Okoh, Stabilini Visioni Ltd., Bi-Courtney Ltd. and Renix Nigeria Ltd.

The EFCC alleged that the defendants had fraudulently assisted Ibori to transfer various sums, through various parties, to Erin Aviation account in Mauritius for the purchase of a Challenger Jet Aircraft.

The defendants are facing 27 counts bordering on conspiracy, retention of proceeds of a criminal conduct and corruptly conferring benefit on account of public action.

However, effort to arraign the defendants was stalled on Nov.29 following the claim by Sofunde that Babalakin was on admission at LUTH.

NAN

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