A Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja has discharged the Chairman of Bi-Courtney Limited, Dr. Wale Babalakin, charged with N4.7bn fraud.
Also freed of the alleged crime by Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo were Babalakin’s co-defendants: Alex Okoh, Stabilini Visioni Limited, Bi-Courtney Limited and Renix Nigeria Limited.
Lawal-Akapo on Monday held that the charges filed against Babalakin and others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission were incurably bad and defective and could therefore not stand.
The EFCC had filed 27 counts bordering on conspiracy, retention of proceeds of criminal conduct and corruptly conferring benefit on account of public action against the accused.
The allegation of the anti-graft agency was that Babalakin and others aided a former Governor of Delta State, James Ibori, who is now serving a jail term in the United Kingdom, to siphon funds belonging to the state.
The EFCC claimed that the allegedly siphoned fund, said to have run into about N4.7bn, was transferred into the bank account of one Erin Aviation in Mauritius for the purpose of purchasing an aircraft.
Babalakin and others, however, objected to the charge and urged the court to dismiss them for want of competence.
The defendants’ legal team comprising Dr. Biodun Layonu (SAN), Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), Mr. Roland Otaru (SAN), Dr. Joseph Nwobike (SAN) and Mr. Oladapo Akinosun, had predicated the objection on four issues.
One was whether the EFCC could prosecute a criminal case in the Lagos State High Court without invoking the fiat of the Lagos State Attorney General.
The defence also asked the court to determine whether Ibori was a public officer within the contemplation of Section 98(a) of the Criminal Code Laws of Lagos State 2003.
They further contended that it was an aberration in criminal justice for two prosecuting authorities, in this case the EFCC and the Attorney General of the Federation, to jointly file a charge against one accused person.
The defence asked the court to determine whether the EFCC had disclosed enough information on the face of the charge to sustain its case.
Lawal-Akapo, in his ruling on Monday, resolved three of the issues in favour of the accused.
In the final analysis, the judge held, “I find and I hold that the amended information dated May 7, 2013 is incurably bad and defective and it is struck out.
“Consequentially, the accused persons are hereby discharged.”
But the Head of Media and publicity of the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, said in a statement on Monday that the commission would appeal the verdict after a careful study of the ruling.