The EFCC accuses Mr. Babalakin of plotting to frustrate his trial.
A Lagos High Court has thrown out an application by Bi-Courntey Limited, a firm owned by Wale Babalakin, seeking to quash a N4.7 billion fraud charge against it.
The firm, alongside Mr. Babalakin, Alex Okoh, Stabilini Visioni Limited, and Renix Nigeria Limited, are facing money laundering charges instituted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
While dismissing the application, Adeniyi Onigbanjo, the trial judge, fixed May 28 for the hearing of two similar applications filed by Messrs Babalakin and Okoh.
After his suit at the Federal High Court, Lagos, seeking to stop the EFCC from prosecuting him was thrown out last December, Mr. Babalakin had proceeded to the Court of Appeal.
In his ruling on Tuesday, Mr. Onigbanjo said that the filing of an appeal was not sufficient to stay the proceedings in the lower court not to talk of striking out an entire suit.
“The worst case scenario will be to nullify all the steps taken by the prosecution,” said Mr. Onigbanjo.
The judge noted that if he granted the application and Mr. Babalakin’s appeal failed at the Court of Appeal, it would amount to the prosecution starting afresh.
“The prosecution process afresh would amount to jeopardising the speedy trial to which the accused persons were entitled,” he added.
Mr. Babalakin was absent in court – his lawyer said that he missed his flight from Abuja; though the judge had said at the last sitting in March that his presence may not be necessary.
The defendants were arraigned, in January, on a 27-count charge of money laundering. The EFCC accuses them of aiding James Ibori, the convicted former Delta State Governor, to transfer N4.7 billion to Mauritius between May and December 2006.
In February, Joseph Nwobike, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, filed an application seeking to quash all the counts.
Mr. Nwobike had argued that Mr. Babalakin’s appeal at the appellate court would have a ripple effect on all the defendants if it succeeds.
Various applications from the defendants have continued to delay actual trial – over four applications have been filed by lawyers to the defendants since January’s arraignment.
While bringing his application before the court, at the last sitting, Mr. Nwobike had argued that there was a difference between his own application which sought to “strike out” the charges and Mr. Babalakin’s which was to “quash.”
“There’s a difference within the etymology of the context of that word,” Mr. Nwobike had insisted.
Rotimi Jacobs, the EFCC counsel, never hid his disdain for some of the defendants’ applications, describing them as “ridiculous” and “absurd.”
After Tuesday’s ruling, Bi-Courtney filed another application dated April 25 similar to the one the court had decided.
After the judge forced Seun Awonuga, who represented Bi-Courtney, to move the motion the same day to avoid another delay, he withdrew it.
Stabilini also withdrew its own application, noting that it had the same grounds as the one which was struck out by the judge.
Mr. Babalakin is the current Pro-Chancellor of the University of Maiduguri, a position civil society groups have asked that he be relieved of.
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