The Chairman of Bi-Courtney Limited, Dr. Wale Babalakin, was yesterday granted bail on self recognisance, when his trial for allegedly laundering N2.8b on behalf of the former governor of Delta State, James Ibori, commenced at an Ikeja High Court, in Lagos.
The commencement of the trial contradicted the claims by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Wednesday, that the defendant had gone underground to avoid prosecution ,an allegation that was immediately refuted by Babalakin, through his spokesman, Dipo Kehinde.
Realated story:N4.7B Scam: At Last, EFCC Arraigns Wale Babalakin
Babalakin, who was charged alongside four others, including Alex Okoh, Bi-Courtney Limited, Stabilini Visinoni Limited and Renix Nigeria Limited, came to the court on his own, unaccompanied, around 9am, after which the trial commenced at 11am. Both Babalakin and Okoh pleaded not guilty to the 27-count charge preferred against them.
In reaching the decision to grant bail on self-recognisance, Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo took note of the submission of EFCC’s counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, that Babalakin had abided by all the terms of his administrative bail and had voluntarily presented himself for trial.
The judge further said in line the presumed innocence of the defendant as well as his antecedents as the Chairman of Committee of Pro-Chancellors of all Federal Universities, Pro-Chancellor of the University of Maiduguri and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria in admitting him to bail.
He, however, ordered that both Babalakin and Okoh, who was also granted bail on self-recognisance, should deposit their international passports with the EFCC, while adjourning hearing till February 25.