The former Nigerian Minister is accused of money laundering.
Embattled billionaire lawyer, Wale Babalakin, will be part of a four-man team of Senior Advocates leading other lawyers as they plot to absolve a former minister of alleged corrupt practices.
Femi Fani-Kayode, a former Minister of Aviation, was on Monday, arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on a N230 million money laundering charge.
Mr. Fani-Kayode pleaded not guilty to 47 counts of corrupt enrichment.
Mr. Babalakin, himself also being prosecuted by the anti-graft agency over a N4.7 billion criminal conspiracy and money laundering charge, will join Ladi Williams, Wale Akoni, and Ifedayo Adedipe – all Senior Advocates of Nigeria – to form the core of Mr. Fani-Kayode’s defence team.
A third appearance
Monday’s arraignment before Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia would be the third time Mr. Fani-Kayode would be arraigned before a judge over the same charges.
Two previous arraignments by the EFCC had suffered setbacks after the trial judges were transferred out of Lagos.
After he was arraigned in December 23, 2008, Ramat Mohammed, the then judge, was transferred out of Lagos Division of the Federal High Court.
The matter was then re-assigned to Justice Binta Nyako and the former minister re-arraigned before her in February, last year.
However, after the case had proceeded to trial, the same fate befell Mrs. Nyako in late 2012 as she was also transferred out of Lagos, paving the way for Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia to start the matter afresh.
‘Family as conduit’
Mr. Williams, the defendant’s lead counsel, urged the judge to grant his client bail based on the conditions he had earlier fulfilled in the previous arraignment.
The EFCC, represented by Nelson Okedinachi, did not oppose Mr. Fani-Kayode’s bail application
Mr. Fani-Kayode is accused of using his aides, including his wife Regina Fani-Kayode, and daughter, Remilekun, as conduit to launder N230 million between August 2006 and March 2007.
Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia, while granting the accused bail, noted that the prosecution’s charges were not properly drafted and may need to be amended.
“On the face of the charge, there is the need for you to amend it. I will not want to entertain any frivolous amendment in the future,” Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia said.
“I don’t know understand what you mean by the wife is at large. You know there is new Money Laundering Act and you know the calibre of lawyers on the other side.
“So are you going to amend and put the accused person through one more but the last ordeal of re-arraignment?” She added.
The EFCC, however, insisted that there was nothing wrong with the charges it filed against the ex-minister.
“For now My Lord, we don’t have any plan to amend the charge. We believe the charge is competent,” said Mr. Okedinachi, who represented, Festus Keyamo, the EFCC’s lead counsel, at the proceedings.
Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia fixed March 11, 12 and 13, 2012 for trial.