17 January 2013

Nigeria: Ibori Loot - Court Grants Babalakin Bail On Self-Recognition

Photo: This Day
Wale Babalakin

Lagos — The Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja has granted self-recognition bail to Dr Wale Babalakin, chairman, Bi-courtney Highway Limited and his co-accused person, Alex Okoh, both of whom are being prosecuted by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)on allegation of fraudulent transfer of N4.7 billion for former governor of Delta State, James Ibori.

Babalakin who is the first defendant in the case and who was declared wanted by EFCC on Wednesday, appeared for the first time since the legal battle commenced at the State High Court. He, alongside Okoh and three others are being accused of fraudulently transferred N4.7 billion for Ibori under the guise of purchasing a Challenger Jet Aircraft.

But while ruling on the bail applications on Thursday, the presiding Judge, Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo said the court took into consideration the pleas of Babalakin's counsel and that the court is aware of his status as a prominent Nigerian, hence the decision to grant him bail on self recognition.

"Having considered the pleas of the first defendant's counsel, it is noted that the court is aware of all the considerations as cited by the counsel and is also aware of his client status in the society. The defendant is hereby admitted to bail on self recognition. As a precautionary measure however, the defendant is directed to drop his international passport with EFCC and that shall not be released to him except with the express permission of the court," Justice Onigbanjo said.

Justice Onigbanjo later adjourned further proceeding till February 25, 2013 while also asking defendants' counsels to file in all their written addresses in 14 days, so as to ensure smooth proceeding of the court.

In a brief chat with journalists after the court proceeding, Babalakin described his arraignment as epoch-making because he is weathering all "evil-machinations" being hurled at him. He also said EFCC decision to declare him wanted is unwarranted.

"Yesterday, EFCC declared me wanted but today, you also heard it in the court when counsel to EFCC said I have always honour all invitations extended to me while I'm enjoying administrative bail. So, you can see that the declaration was unwarranted," Babalakin said.

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