Chairman of Bi-Courtney Highway Services Limited, Wale Babalakin (SAN)
By Davidson Iriekpen
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has declared the Chairman of Bi-Courtney Highway Services Limited, Wale Babalakin (SAN), wanted in connection with criminal conspiracy and money laundering to the tune of N4.7 billion on behalf of the convicted former Delta State governor, Chief James Ibori.
Babalakin was scheduled to appear in court Thursday for arraignment by the commission.
However, the EFCC, in a statement issued Wednesday, said: “The businessman, who was supposed to report to the commission today preparatory to his arraignment on a 27-count criminal charge before Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo of the Lagos High Court tomorrow, January 17, 2013 failed to do so, and has gone underground.”
Giving a physical description of Babalakin, EFCC said the lawyer-cum-businessman is dark-complexioned and speaks English and Yoruba fluently.
It directed anyone with useful information on his whereabouts to contact the EFCC at its Enugu, Kano, Lagos, Gombe, Port Harcourt and Abuja offices or through these numbers: 09-4604620, 070-26350721,070-26350722,070-26350723,070-6350724, 070-26350725; or e-mail address: email@example.com or the nearest police station.
However, Babalakin faulted the action of the EFCC in the strongest terms. Speaking to THISDAY Wednesday night, he said: “I have been in regular touch with the EFCC and have reported to the commission every other day.
“Even Mr. Ilyasu Kwabai, an operative of the commission, called me at 5.30 pm today (Wednesday), instructing that I should be in court tomorrow (Thursday).
“So there is no basis for declaring me wanted because I have consistently complied with the administrative bail terms and I will be in court tomorrow (Thursday) at 8 am.”
Also, in a statement issued on his behalf by the spokesman of Bi-Courtney, Mr. Dipo Kehinde Dipo, the businessman said he was not on the run to warrant being declared wanted, adding that as a law abiding citizen, he would appear in court Thursday.
The statement read: “We do not understand the game that the EFCC is playing. This is nothing but a deep political game. Since Babalakin came out of the hospital, he has reported at the EFCC office in Lagos more than five times. He was also there on Tuesday. He is currently on administrative bail.
“He is not a man on the run. We have a date in court tomorrow (Thursday), but the EFCC wants to jungle justice. Babalakin was in touch with the EFCC by 5 pm today (Wednesday).
“They asked him to report at their office tomorrow (Thursday) before he goes to court. Yet tonight (Wednesday night), they declared him wanted.”
Babalakin was charged before Justice Onigbanjo of the Lagos High Court in Ikeja on a 27-count charge for conspiracy, retention of proceeds of a criminal conduct and corruptly conferring benefit on account of a public action.
The offences, according to the commission, are contrary to Section 17(a) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act 2004.
Efforts to arraign the defendants were stalled on November 29 and December 12 last year after Babalakin’s counsel told the court that he had been admitted at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Lagos.
At the last adjourned date of the case, Justice Onigbanjo had fixed January 17 for further hearing into the case due to the purported ill-health of the first defendant.
Babalakin was charged alongside Alex Okoh, Stabilini Visioni Limited, Bi-Courtney Limited and Renix Nigeria Limited for fraudulently transferring N4.7 billion on behalf of Ibori.
The anti-graft commission had alleged that the defendants fraudulently assisted Ibori to transfer various sums, through various parties, to an Erin Aviation Account in Mauritius for the purchase of a Challenger Jet aircraft.
Babalakin had on two occasions attempted to thwart his arraignment at the Federal High Court in Lagos but failed as both applications were struck out.