Barely 48 hours after the Federal Government cancelled the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway concession granted to his company, Bi-Courtney Highway Services, over three years ago, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday filed a 20-count charge against its chairman/chief executive, Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN), at the Lagos High Court.
THISDAY learnt that the charges border on Babalakin's alleged involvement in the laundering of about N2 billion belonging to the Delta State Government on behalf of its former governor, Chief James Ibori, who is currently serving a 13-year jail term in the United Kingdom.
A source close to the anti-graft commission informed THISDAY that before the charges were filed Wednesday, operatives of the agency had stormed both the Abuja and Lagos homes of Babalakin in order to arrest him but could not find him.
The source said it became necessary to file the charges Wednesday; otherwise, it would have been difficult to file them owing to the intense lobbying by the businessman and the pressure on the Federal Government from his friends and associates.
"The EFCC filed charges against Babalakin today at the Lagos High Court. The commission went to his house looking for him but he was not there.
"It has filed the charges against him. If EFCC did not file today, it will be difficult because he has been lobbying. But it is already in court, so he cannot stop it," the source said.
In 2009, the EFCC had detained Babalakin for two days and subsequently granted him administrative bail in connection with the same case.
Efforts by THISDAY to contact Babalakin Wednesday night proved abortive.
But one of his close associates, who confirmed the manhunt for the businessman, wondered why the Federal Government was resurrecting an issue that had been resolved a long time ago.
According to him, "This is an issue that was resolved a long time ago. I believe this definitely has to do with his decision to go to court to contest the cancellation of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway concession.
"They want to use this as a distraction."
In addition to the termination of the concession, Babalakin suffered another blow this week when the Ondo State Government on Tuesday announced plans to cancel a N4.8 billion contract awarded to one his companies, Homan Engineering Limited, for the construction of a road in the state.