Ikeja - The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Monday opposed an application filed by the Chairman of Bi-Courtney Ltd., Wale Babalakin, and his co-defendants, seeking to quash the fraud charge against them.
The commission made this known in a counter affidavit filed by its counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), before Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo of an Ikeja High Court.
Babalakin is being prosecuted for an alleged N4.7 billion fraud.
The EFCC had charged him for allegedly transferring the monies on behalf of convicted former Delta State Governor, James Ibori.
He is standing trial alongside Alex Okoh and their companies - Stabilini Visioni Ltd, Bi-Courtney Ltd and Renix Nigeria Ltd.
The defendants are facing a 27-count charge bordering on conspiracy, retention of proceeds of a criminal conduct and corruptly conferring benefit on account of public action.
Also read: N4.7bn fraud: Babalakin's firms ask court to quash charge
They had in separate preliminary notices of objection asked the court to dismiss the charge, arguing that it was defective, unconstitutional and an abuse of court process.
Their counsel, Wale Akoni (SAN), Tayo Oyetibo (SAN) and Roland Otaru (SAN), said the EFCC had no power to prosecute the defendants before a state high court.
They claimed that the fiat obtained by the EFCC from the Attorney-General of Lagos State in May 2004 had "expired".
The defence lawyers also argued that the charge was only signed by an officer of the EFCC, A. M. Yusuf, with no representation from the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation.
Opposing the application, Jacobs argued that the EFCC and the AGF were empowered to prosecute criminal offences under state laws, even without a fiat from the state's attorney-general.
He said "Section 211 (1) of the Constitution allows for circumstances in which any other body other than the Attorney-General can institute criminal proceedings against a person.
"The EFCC Act, which is an Act of the National Assembly, also empowers the agency to prosecute criminal matters under a state law.’’
He further argued that the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State, 2011 gave powers to the EFCC to prosecute the defendants before a state high court.
Jacobs maintained that Yusuf had signed the charge on behalf of both the EFCC and the AGF, while performing an official act.
According to him, the EFCC was under the supervision of the AGF and charging the defendants does not amount to an abuse of the process of the court.
The matter was adjourned till November 25, for further hearing.