Three days after a back and forth argument between counsels, Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, Friday, ordered the release of the international passport of Abdullahi Babalele, a son-in-law to a former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, to enable travel abroad for treatment.
The judge, in his ruling, also adjourned to November 11, 2019 for commencement of trial, adding that Babalele should return his passport to the court on that day.
At the last sitting on Tuesday, October 8, 2019, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, informed the court of the existing bail earlier granted the defendant and also sought the commencement of the trial.
However, counsel to the defendant, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, informed the court about an application before it for the release of the international passport of the defendant.
The defence counsel also told the court that he attached some medical reports showing that the defendant was ill and would need to undergo treatment abroad.
In his response, Oyedepo opposed the application and urged the court to go through the medical report, saying, “There is no existing appointment made to see any doctors abroad.
“The report shows that the defendant has no issue of trauma, diabetes, high blood pressure or otherwise.”
Oyedepo, therefore, urged the court to refuse the application on the grounds that “there is no material evidence before the court to show that the defendant is in distress.”
Consequently, Justice Aneke adjourned the case to October 11, 2019 for ruling.
In his ruling today, Justice Aneke granted the temporary release of the defendant’s passport to enable him travel and take care of his health.
The Judge held that the defendant had shown that “he has health issues with the evidence before the court.”
“Only the living can stand trial,” the Judge further held.
Babalele was re-arraigned on Thursday, October 8, 2019 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on a two-count charge bordering on money laundering to the tune of $140,000.00.
The defendant allegedly persuaded one Bashir Mohammed, a Bureau De Change( BDC) operator, to make a cash payment of the sum of $140,000 without going through any financial institution, an offence contrary to Section 18(c) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.
One of the counts reads: “That you, Abdullahi Babalele, on or about the 20th day of February, 2019 in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, procured Basir Mohammed to make a cash payment of the sum of $140,000.00 (One Hundred and Forty Thousand United States Dollars) without going through a financial institution, which sum exceeded the amount authorized by the Law and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(C) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.”
The defendant pleaded not guilty to the charge preferred against him.
The case was adjourned to November 11,12 and 13 for commencement of trial.