Chairman of Bi-Courtney Highway Services, Dr Wale Babalakin, declared missing, Wednesday, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, was, yesterday, arraigned before a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja, alongside Alex Okon and three others, on a 27-count charge bordering on money laundering.
They were alleged to have laundered N4.7 billion in 2006 for former governor of Delta State, Mr James Ibori through various third parties to Erin Aviation account in Mauritius for the alleged purchase of Challenger jet for Ibori.
They pleaded not quilty and were admitted to bail on self-recognition.
The charge against them read: “That you, Babalakin, Stabilini Visioni Limited and Bi-Courtney Ltd, between May 2006 and December 2006, within the jurisdiction of this court, did corruptly confer benefits on former Governor Ibori to wit the sum of N4.7 billion on account of contracts awarded by Delta State Government to Stabilini Visioni Limited by transferring the said sum through various third parties to Erin Aviation account in Mauritius for the purchase of a Challenger Jet Aircraft by the said Ibori.”
Babalakin, who came into the premises of the court at 10.06 am, in a black ML Mercedez Benz SUV with number plate TP 425 AAA and clad in a navy blue stripped suit with a white shirt and a red tie, went straight into the court room, presided over by Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo.
When the 27-count charge was read to the defendants, they all pleaded not guilty.
Counsel to Babalakin, Mr Olawale Akoni, SAN, prayed the court to grant his client bail on self-recognition.
He said: “He is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, a member of the body of benchers, pro-chancellor of the University of Maiduguri, Chairman of the Committee of pro-chancellors in Nigeria and the Senior Partner of one of the biggest law firms in the country.”
He argued that the bail application was supported by a 14-paragraph affidavit deposed to by Dr. Abiodun Layonu and a written address.
Akoni asked the court to consider the affidavits in support of the application and prayed the court to grant Babalakin bail on self recognition.
Mr. Tayo Oyetibo, SAN, counsel to Okon also urged the court to grant him bail on self recognition.
Oyetibo contended that Okon was a Managing Director and Financial Counsellor to leading banks and some other financial institutions in the country, adding he had made himself available in court since the matter started and was prepared for the trial to clear his name.
EFCC counsel, Jacobs, said he was not opposed to bail applications since, the defendants had been appearing before the commission. He prayed the court to give conditions that would ensure their appearance for trial.
In his ruling, Justice Onigbanjo granted them bail in self recognition, but asked them to deposit their travelling documents with EFCC.
Justice Onigbanjo subsequently gave the defendants and prosecution 14 days within which to serve all papers, including processes, interlocutory applications, counter motions, affidavit in support of their motions, ahead of trial and adjourned till February 25, 2013 for hearing of interlocutory applications of the defendants.