The Economic and Financial crimes commission, EFCC, this morning at the Lagos High Court, charged the chairman of Bi – Courtney Group, Wale Babalakin for laundering N1.6 billion for former governor of Delta State, James Ibori.
However, icirnigeria.org learnt that attempts by the operatives of the commission to arrest the lawyer and businessman this morning at his Lagos house before his arraignment failed as he is believed to have fled having been tipped off.
Thus, while charges have been filed against him, he has not appeared in court to enter any plea.
Babalakin is accused of laundering amounts totaling about N1.6 billion for Ibori who is now serving a 13 year jail term in a U.K. prison.
Investigators, who were trying to unravel the monumental looting of the treasury of the Delta State government by Ibori discovered that Babalakin’s companies were some of the several used by the former governor to siphon billions through bogus contracts.
It was discovered that the companies were awarded contracts to construct roads, bridges and a stadium as well the supply materials to the state government. However, while no job was ever done or materials supplied, the company received full payments for the bogus contracts.
It was learnt that in an attempt to hide the source of the money paid to Babalakin’s companies, it was taken through a circuitous route, using several front companies registered by Bhadresh Gohil, a London associate of Ibori who also faced trial in London and was convicted for laundering funds for the ex – governor.
The N1.6 billion allegedly laundered by Babalakin for Ibori is found to be part of the funds used by the ex – governor to pay for the purchase of a Bombardier Jet from Bombardier Inc. in the United States.
Following the conclusion of EFCC investigations, Babalakin was arrested and interrogated on February 18, this year. He could not explain why he was paid billions of naira from Delta State coffers.
A source in the commission stated that Babalakin could only say that “he got the money for the purchase of building materials and other things.” However, he could not provide proof of any contracts that his companies got or evidence of work done.
Since he was let go on administrative bail in February, Babalakin is said to have been uncooperative with investigators who needed him for further interrogation. He is said to have been using his extensive contacts in the highest echelons of government to put pressure on the EFCC to soft pedal on his case.
Babalakin is not new to controversy in the Nigerian business terrain. Only on Monday, the federal government cancelled the design, build operate and transfer concession on the Lagos – Ibadan expressway awarded to Bi – Courtney Highways Limited, one of his companies.
The N89.53 contract to reconstruct and modernize a 105 kilometres stretch of the 126 kilometre Lagos-Ibadan Express road was awarded in 2009. The four year project construction period expired in mid – 2013 but no construction work has so far been done on the road.
For over three years Bi – Courtney has not been able to secure funds to execute the project.
Other projects that Babalakin has handled in the past, including the Murtala Mohammed Airport Terminal 2 and hotel projects are still enmeshed in litigation or controversy.
He and his companies have also been taken to court by many banks over loans secured to execute projects. His name also featured prominently as one of the biggest debtors in Nigeria in a list published by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
A source at the EFCC told this website today that the commission would arrest Babalakin at the earliest opportunity so that he can be brought before the court to answer to the charges against him.
The EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, could not be reached for comments as he did not pick several calls to his mobile.
The EFCC counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, declined speaking on the issue for now, although he confirmed that a case had been filed against Babalakin at a Lagos court.