The intrigues over the trial of Wale Babalakin who is being tried for alleged money laundering have taken a dramatic twist.Newsdiaryonline.com learnt that operatives of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ,EFCC are right now at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital where Babalakin is believed to be receiving treatment.An official release by the commission last week said Babalakin’s absence stalled his arraignment.One source said the EFCC operatives have “stormed LUTH” in order to avert any probability of his escape before the next adjourned date.
But an official of EFCC who spoke with Newsdiaryonline.com this evening said there was nothing like “storming of LUTH in a Gestapo -style.That era is gone.Why should we storm a hospital that has several innocent people receiving treatment ”.
The official however confirmed to Newsdiaryonline.com that EFCC operatives are indeed now at LUTH because Babalakin is under surveillance.”We are just conducting surveillance” the source said.
The EFCC official recalled that last week Babalakin said through his counsel that “he was sick and at the hospital and the judge directed that we should confirm and ensure that he is in court at the next adjourned date which is December 12.We just carrying out the judge’s instruction”.
Once again, the official debunked vehemently insinuations that EFCC operatives stormed LUTH.”You won’t even notice that our operatives are there, because these are plain –cloth people”,the official told Newsdiaryonline.com moments ago.
The EFCC is alleging in its statement that Babalakin and others between May and September 2012 fraudulently helped Ibori oil his money laundering machine to transfer various sums through Interactive Technologies Limited, Sopetrol Oil and Gas Limited, Casaka Nigeria Company Limited, Geofluids Limited, ABS Limited and Hyundai Heavy Industries Nigeria Limited to Erin Aviation account in Mauritius for the purchase of a Challenger jet.
The Commission had earlier stated how Babalakin ‘s absence stalled his arraignement.When the matter came up last week, according to an EFCC press release,Counsel to Babalakin, Ebun Sofunde, SAN told the court presided over by Justice Adeniji Onigbanjo that his client is currently on admission at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital for an undisclosed ailment.Sofunde said he had earlier forwarded a letter to the registrar of the court which contained a medical report by one Dr. Charles Harmon about Babalakin’s health situation.
In his reaction in court ,EFCC Counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN expressed displeasure at the turn of event saying he was shocked that Babalakin chose to go against the grain of the understanding he reached with the Commission when he was granted administrative bail on November 26, 2012,a press release by Wilson Uwujaren, the commission’s spokesman said.
” My Lord when I received the letter and a medical report from the first defendant’s lawyer, Dr. E.O Sofunde and read the content, I contacted my client, the EFCC and the Commission expressed dismay over the attitude of the first defendant. The medical report was dated 26 November, 2012 and as at that day, he was at the EFCC office in Abuja. He was served with all the processes and he made additional statements on that day. He came with Dr. Layonu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria as his surety and he was granted administrative bail with an undertaking that he will be produced before the EFCC yesterday or early this morning for him to be arraigned. If at all there is a medical issue, it should have been communicated to us so we can verify,” Jacobs reportedly said.
The EFCC press release further recalled Jacobs lamenting that it took the Commission’s Operatives one week before Babalakin could be arrested and was released on bail having produced a reputable Senior Advocate of Nigeria, as surety.
However, Sofunde, SAN, apologized on behalf of his client. He said he was not contesting the fact that the first defendant was granted bail on 26 November, 2012 which was the same day that the medical report was generated. He explained that the medical report said his client’s health condition degenerated, and requested for a short adjournment to allow his client recover from the undisclosed ailment.
Tayo Oyetibo, SAN, appeared for the second defendant, Alex Okoh and his company, Renix Nigeria Limited. Oyetibo urged the court to retain his client on an administrative bail earlier granted him by the EFCC pending the substantive arraignment proceedings. Bolaji Ayorinde, SAN, who appeared for Stabilini Visioni Limited and Bi-Courtney Limited also sought for an adjournment,EFCC said.
Justice Onigbanjo adjourned the case to 12 December, 2012 and directed the EFCC to verify the claims on the medical report submitted by the first defendant and whether he is truly on admission at LASUTH.
He granted Alex Okoh the relief he sought to continue to enjoy the administrative bail earlier granted him by the EFCC.
So what a source described as the drama at LUTH may have in indeed been a fallout of the unfolding legal fireworks.But a source close to Babalakin described the storming of LUTH as illegal.EFCC official who spoke to Newsdiaryonline.com described Babalakin and his group as being just hyper-sensitive.