N4.7b Fraud Case: Judge Withdraws From Babalakin’s Suit

by; Tunde Opeseitan

 A Lagos Federal High Court judge, Justice James Tsoho, has excused himself from a suit filed by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and Chairman of Bi-Courtney Group, Wale Babalakin, challenging the moves by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to re-initiate criminal charge against him over alleged N4.7 billion fraud.

Babalakin, in the suit, is accusing both the AGF and the EFCC of making desperate efforts to prosecute him maliciously.

The silk is specifically seeking a judicial review of the actions of the AGF and EFCC to prosecute him again after being discharged of the same crime.

Babalakin, it would be recalled, was on February 23, 2015, discharged by Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo of an Ikeja High Court, along with Alex Okoh, Stabilini Visinoni Ltd, Bi-Courtney Ltd and Renix Nigeria Ltd.

The EFCC had accused them of committing money laundering crime to the tune of N4.7 billion.

However, after two years in court, the Judge ruled that there was no basis for the charges and consequently struck out the charges and discharged Babalakin and other defendants.

Justice Akapo had then observed that the entire 27-counts charges did not contain any single charge that constituted an offence under the laws of Nigeria.

However, following reports that the EFCC was planning to file the same charges against him on the same subject matter and on the same provisions of the law, Babalakin promptly approached the Federal High Court seeking protection and a Judicial Review of the actions.

The matter was assigned to Justice Tsoho, who on April 29, 2015, granted a restraining order against EFCC, prohibiting the agency from proceeding with the action pending the determination of the suit.

The order was later vacated by the judge but the EFCC was asked to maintain status quo pending the final determination of the suit.

When the matter came up on Monday, Justice Tsoho announced his withdrawal from the suit following a petition from Babalakin through his lawyer to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, seeking the transfer of the case to another judge.

The basis of the petition dated 19th June, 2015, was that the ex-parte order restraining EFCC from arresting Babalakin was discharged by Justice Tsoho without a formal application.

EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Jacob, however kicked against the development, saying he was never served with a copy of the petition.

SOURCE: Daily Independent.


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